Crash Avoidance Technology Graded in New IIHS Study

Posted on July 3, 2012

In today’s modern age, automobile manufacturers are making huge strides in the technological development of systems that their vehicles come equipped with.  Many safety features that were once thought to exist only within science fiction have instead become increasingly mundane.  But with so many highly advanced safety features hitting the market, it becomes especially important that we step back and really evaluate just how valuable these systems are.

A new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety offered a thorough evaluation of systems that aim to help motorists avoid accidents.  The study was compiled by gathering together insurance claim data from across the country.  What they found might surprise you.

The biggest shock comes from the fact that crash rates might in fact be increased when vehicles come equipped with warning systems that tell drivers when they’re about to depart their lane.  Vehicles with this safety feature experienced a 10% increase in crash risk.  The IIHS’s chief research officer doesn’t have a simple explanation for this bizarre phenomenon.  In wagering a guess, he attributes the increased crash rate to systems that are too sensitive to slight deviations, and thus get ignored by drivers over time.  He also says that annoyed drivers might simply deactivate the system.

Two other technologies that didn’t fare as well in the study as might be expected were blind spot warnings and parking assist features.  Although one would figure that these technologies would help to reduce crashes, the IIHS study showed that the current data is inconclusive.  More time will have to elapse before the benefits of these technologies can be fully evaluated.

Not all systems exhibited such disappointing numbers.  Front collision avoidance technology, which either alerts the driver to an impending obstacle directly or takes things into its own metaphorical hands by applying the brakes automatically, held up astonishingly well.  When a vehicle comes equipped with this life-saving system, insurance claims drop by a rate of 10% to 14%.  The automatic braking features becomes particularly useful should the driver be sidelined by an emergency.

Adaptive headlights also show promise in reducing accident rates.  These devices, which sense a turn approaching and direct the beams of the vehicle toward the road accordingly, also assist in reducing the risk of crashes.  Specific numbers aren’t given, but the sudden ability for a driver to see oncoming obstacles shouldn’t be underestimated.

It will be important to continue to analyze this data, especially as we draw closer and closer to an age where autonomous cars are possible.  Right now, many of the systems as described are commonplace only in high-end automobiles, but that is sure to change as time goes on, with more and more moderately-priced vehicles getting equipped with this technology every year.

By continuing to carefully study the efficacy of these systems, we can continue to improve the safety of our highways for decades to come.

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