Are safe driving technologies reducing motor vehicle crashes?

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According to the Kansas Department of Transportation, nearly 59,000 motor vehicle crashes occurred in 2017 and driver related factors were among the top contributing reason, with general inattention accounting for over 20% of all accidents. Are safe driving technologies helping to improve these statistics? 

Safety agencies are in favor of new age driver assistance technologies!

Data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2018 clearly suggested that new model vehicles are safer than older cars largely due to the latest crash prevention technologies. In fact, the NHTSA’s analysis also showed that older cars led to a greater number of accident fatalities and severely injured passengers.

Car collision avoidance system illustration

It is not only the NHTSA, but also the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) that has given two thumbs up to these technologies. A study conducted by the IIHS showed that even the use of just two of these driver assistance systems (i.e. blind-spot detection and lane-departure warnings), has cut down the rates of:

  • Head on collisions and side swipes by as much as 18%.
  • The risk of injuries suffered in such accidents by almost 25%.
  • The rate of fatal crashes by as much as 86%.

An introduction to safe driving technologies

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) function by putting to use data collected from multiple sources, such as image processing, radar, automotive imaging, computer vision and LiDAR. Depending on the model of the car and its features, some systems also get additional inputs from other vehicles through WiFi networks or mobile phone networks. Safe driving technologies work in four ways:

  1. Warning systems: These technologies warn the driver of obstacles and collision factors, acting as a super alert driving assistant.
  2. Correctional maneuvering: These systems are a tad more proactive in their approach as they will take control of the vehicle and initiate the defensive maneuver to avoid the accident, even when the driver fails to do so.
  3. Repetitive task management: Admit it or not, driving on long winding roads with no change of scenery or even the same route from work to home every day puts people in a complacent mode. These features are designed to handle these repetitive tasks and prevent accidents that occur due to the lack of attention in such cases.
  4. Extra safety: These are the bonus features; those that offer additional safety value but do not impact driving in any way.

Under these broad classifications, there are several systems that are designed to meet very specific road and driver safety functions.

The wide array of safe driving technologies

Safe driving technologies are not only meant to prevent collisions but are also designed to make it easier to operate the vehicle for people of all ages. Here is a look at what’s available in the market at this time:

1. Parking made simpler and safer: In 2017, Kansas State recorded over 1400 accidents caused by improper backing and almost 14,000 rear end collisions. The ADAS that could have prevented these collisions include:

  1. Rear-view/backup camera: Eliminates the blind spots directly behind the vehicle and offers a clear view of the object that would be missed by the rear-view mirror.
  2. Rear cross traffic alert: With your attention focused on the rear-view mirror and the object right behind the vehicle, it is easy to miss a car coming your way from the side. This alert system will give you a warning about cars and other obstacles that are outside the view of the backup camera.
  3. Rear automatic braking: Applies brakes automatically, with no input from the driver, to prevent a collision when backing up.
  4. Automatic parking system: Helps in parallel parking by alerting the driver about when to turn the wheel and when to stop. Some systems can complete the whole task in auto-mode without driver action.

2. Forward collisions avoided: Although not as common as rear-end or angle crashes, forward collisions can be more dangerous. Approximately 1,000 such crashes were reported in Kansas in 2017 and these could have been avoided with the following safe driving technologies:

  1. Forward collision warning system: Detects vehicles and objects in front of your car and warns of a possible collision.
  2. Automatic emergency braking: Applies brakes without driver intervention to prevent a collision.
  3. Traffic sign recognition: Recognizes traffic signs and displays information to the driver along with instructions of speed changes.

3. Taking the hazards out of lane changing:  Improper lane changes resulted in over 2,000 crashes in Kansas in 2017. Here are four currently available features that could have prevented them:

  1. Blind spot detection/lane change assistant: Warns of vehicles in your blind spot to the side, thus preventing accidents when changing lanes.
  2. Lane departure warning: Helps you to stay in the lane by detecting a sideway drift of the vehicle and sounding a warning when your vehicle goes over the lane markings.
  3. Lane keeping assist: Steps is up a few notches and actually steps in and steers the vehicle back into the lane before it drifts too far out and crashes into another vehicle.
  4. Lane centering assistant: Maintains the position of the car in the center of the lane with constant corrective steering.

4. Keeping a safe distance: Nearly 11% of all accidents on Kansas roads can be blamed on following too closely. That’s almost 6,000 accidents that could have been avoided with these features:

  1. Adaptive cruise control: Maintains a set distance between your vehicle and the one ahead with automatic speed adjustments.
  2. Highway pilot: Maintains lane position and following distance by automatic adjustments to speed and intuitive braking.

5. Safety while on the road: Almost 42% of all Kansas motor vehicle crashes are attributed to unsafe or improper driving. This means a massive 24,000 crashes could have been avoided in 2017 through the use of these technologies:

  1. Adaptive lighting: Changes light beam intensity, range and angle depending on traffic distance and driving maneuver, thus improving night visibility and reducing glare for other motorists.
  2. Traffic jam assist: Adjusts vehicle speed and applies brakes as required to keep up with the flow of traffic and the general direction of vehicle movement.
  3. Cruise control: Steadily maintains the speed set by the driver.
  4. Automotive night vision: Uses infrared light or thermal energy to improve visibility of objects, people and vehicles that would normally be impossible or hard to see due to lack of light.
  5. Turning assistant: Monitors oncoming traffic when the vehicle is in a slow speed turn and brakes the car if there is the risk of a collision.
  6. Intersection assistant: Monitors cross traffic at intersections and gives visual and auditory warnings to engage the brakes. If the driver fails to react promptly, the system engages the brakes.
  7. Hill descent control: Allows for descent at a steady speed on rough terrain by using antilock brakes on each wheel, so that the motorist does not have to engage the brakes.
  8. Intelligent speed adaptation: Provides alerts for when the vehicle speed exceeds legally enforced/safe speed limits.
  9. Wrong way driving warning: Monitors access restrictions and gives auditory and visual warning if the motorists starts driving in the wrong direction.

6. Pedestrian safety: In 2017, over 5,000 pedestrians were involved in crashes that resulted in 270 deaths and over 4,500 injured people. These mishaps could have been prevented with the following features:

  1. Pedestrian protection: Monitors the path of the vehicle for pedestrians, warns the motorists and applies brakes to prevent an accident.
  2. Surround view system: Offers a surround view or bird view around the vehicle. Although the feature was designed for assistance with parking in tiny spaces, it also helps the motorist to spot pedestrians in time. 

7. Automobile safety: These systems are designed to weed out crash factors that result from automobile problems and make it safer to drive the car.

  1. Cross wind stabilization: Detects crosswind force acting on the vehicle and compensates for it, thus offering greater stability.
  2. Tire pressure warning: Monitors and relays information about real time tire pressure to the motorists, to help warn of possible tire blow outs ahead of time.
  3. Electronic stability control: Called the most important safe driving feature since the seatbelt, this is the number one recommendation from the IIHS. The system reduces the risk of crashes caused by loss of control/skidding due to over steering and weather conditions.
  4. Traction control system: The predecessor of the electronic stability system, this feature pulses the brakes for the wheel that is spinning faster than its counterparts, and diverts the power to the wheel that has more traction.
  5. Automatic seatbelt tensioner: Tightens the seatbelts of the front seats in the event of a frontal collision, even when the impact is not enough to deploy the airbags.

8. Monitoring the motorist: Inattentiveness, influence of alcohol, distractions and factors that impact the focus of the motorist are responsible for almost 40% of all auto accidents in Kansas. In 2017, over 20,000 crashes occurred due to lack of focus and attentiveness, which could have been averted by these features:

  1. Emergency drive assistant: Monitors delays between the use of the accelerator and the brakes and once a threshold has been crossed, takes control of the vehicle and brings it to a safe stop.
  2. Driver drowsiness detection: Monitors driver drowsiness and inattentiveness through steering patterns and changes in vehicle lane position as well as physiological parameters, then takes corrective action to avoid a crash.
  3. Drive attention monitor: Monitors driver attention with infrared sensors, which are used to track eye movement. If the driver is not paying attention, the system gives audio and visual warnings and takes control of the vehicle if the motorists does not respond to these.

9. Navigation and communication:  These systems enable you to drive a car without being distracted.

  1. Automatic crash notification: Notifies emergency personnel of the crash and provides location details.
  2. Voice activated system: Allows motorists to navigate, play music, make and receive calls and send and receive text messages in hands-free mode.

Safe driving systems have all the bases covered!

Between the various technologies, these ADAS features manage to greatly reduce the risk of most collision factors. For instance they:

  • Compensate for driver inattentiveness.
  • Help to maintain safe distance.
  • Keep a lookout for objects, vehicles and people in your path.
  • Assist in overtaking and passing other vehicles.
  • Reduce the risk of accidents due to mechanical factors.
  • Maintain control of the vehicle in inclement weather and on rough terrain.
  • Offer alerts for traffic signs and speed limits.
  • Initiate corrective action when required, faster than what would be humanly possible.

These features use multiple warning systems like audio alarms, flashing dashboard signals and steering wheel vibrations to alert the motorist of impending danger. As mentioned above, some of these features can quickly assume control of the vehicle and apply the corrective action required. In many instances, this is enough to prevent a crash. Even when they can’t avert a mishap, they certainly help to slow down the vehicle and dramatically reduce the risk of severe injuries.

But ADAS have their limitations!

According to Dr. David Yang of the AAA Foundation, ADAS technologies can prevent 40% of all car accidents and 30% of traffic deaths; that’s nearly 3 million crashes, 1 million injuries and almost 10,000 fatalities each year.

However, you can only gain from the safety benefits of these systems if you are completely aware of how they work and their limitations. Unfortunately, over reliance on these systems and misconceptions about their capabilities can create a very dangerous situation. For example, according to the AAA Foundation Study:

  • Almost 80% of drivers believe that blind spot monitoring systems will alert them of fast-moving vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles behind their car, when in reality, these systems only offer alerts pertaining to the automobiles in the driver’s blind spot.
  • Almost 40% of drivers assume that their forward collision warning system will automatically apply the brakes if there is a risk of collision, when the system is only designed to deliver a warning.
  • Nearly 25% of motorists rely so completely on their rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring systems that they don’t perform visual checks or look in the rear-view mirror or over their shoulder for pedestrians and oncoming vehicles.
  • Another 25% of motorists reported indulging in other tasks while behind the wheel of their car just because the vehicle features lane departure and forward collision warning systems.
  • Over 30% of drivers did not know that many automatic safe driving systems get their data from cameras and sensors, which do not function correctly if blocked by snow, dirt or ice.

Don’t assume that just because you have the help of ADAS technologies, you can ignore your responsibilities and functions as a motorist. That said, these technologies do significantly reduce the risk of crashes and injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents. Opt for a vehicle that has these features or talk to your auto manufacturer about getting them installed in your car.

If you’re involved in a collision, contact DeVaughn James Injury Lawyers for a free consultation.