Vehicle crash avoidance systems live up to the hype and save lives, according to two new studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, another study by the same organization shows that some drivers become too reliant on the warning systems, get distracted by the systems' dashboard displays or choose to turn the warning systems off
because they find them annoying.
In the first study, researchers collected police-reported crash data from 25 states involving vehicle models that offered lane departure warning systems as an option. They found that the technology reduced the rates of single-vehicle, head-on and sideswipe accidents by 11 percent, and, when crashes did occur, it reduced the number of injuries by 21 percent.
The study also found that lane-keeping systems cut fatal crashes by 86 percent, but Jessica Cicchino, vice president for research at IIHS, explained that that number may be high because of the study methodology that was used. The data, which was from 2009 through 2015, only contained 40 fatal crashes. As a result, researchers chose not to control for factors like a driver's age, gender or insurance risk.
However, Cicchino said that even a 50 percent reduction in fatal crashes involving lane changes would be significant. Currently, 25 percent of all fatal crashes involve vehicles that have veered from their lane. IIHS estimates that 85,000 crashes would have been prevented in 2015 alone if all vehicles had lane-keeping warning systems installed.
Cicchino said that the study provided the "first evidence that lane departure warning is working to prevent crashes of passenger vehicles on U.S. roads."
Meanwhile, a second IIHS study discovered that blind-spot detection systems dropped the rate of all types of lane-change accidents by 14 percent. When a lane-change accident did occur, injuries were reduced by 23 percent. The study estimated that there would be up to 50,000 fewer lane-change accidents per year if all vehicles were equipped with blind-spot detection systems.
While this news proves that collision warning systems do indeed make U.S. roads safer, drivers still need to make some improvements in the ways that they use the auto safety technology. For example, another study by IIHS and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab discovered that car owners with parking assist systems spent 46 percent of the time staring at the dashboard display while their vehicle was helping them park. In comparison, drivers only looked at the dashboard display 3 percent of the time when not using a parking assist system.
Further, drivers that use blind-spot warning systems admitted that they often fail to check their mirrors or look behind them before changing lanes because they know the technology will do it for them. Meanwhile, a June IIHS study showed that drivers turned off their lane-changing warning system almost 50 percent of the time because they found the warning alerts, which are beeps or buzzes, annoying. To address the problem, some automakers are switching to vibration warning systems, which drivers find less irritating.
Collision avoidance systems first entered the American market more than 10 years ago. At first, they were only offered on luxury models, but they are now available on less expensive cars like the Honda Fit, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Yaris.