Automotive Technoogy’s Impact on Accidents and Injuries

Modern Steering Wheel Automotive Technology Impact On Accidents

The introduction of safety features in automobiles began in 1968 with the mandated national introduction of seat belts installed in cars. Wearing them was not compulsory but voluntary and is still only at 90% across the country with New Hampshire not mandating their use.

Safety features have come a long way, so we are going to look at automotive technology and its impact on accidents and injuries in the US.


Automotive Technology That Increases Safety

Many safety features have been added to automobiles over the years with the intention of reducing the number of accidents, fatalities and injuries. They include front automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alerts and automatic high beams.


Front AEB

The purpose of front automatic emergency braking technology is to reduce the incidence of front to rear car collisions. The vehicle applies the brakes if it detects an impending collision and acts in time when the driver has failed to. AEB systems reduce front to rear crashes by 50%.


Blind Spot Warning System

A crash avoidance system, the blind spot warning alerts the driver when there is a vehicle in the next lane that hasn’t been observed in the rear or side view mirrors. It is most useful when changing lanes.

This technology reduces lane change collisions by 14% and lane change crashes resulting in injuries by 23%.


Rear Cross Traffic Alerts

Reversing or backing out is one of the most dangerous of maneuvers when driving so technology such as rear view cameras and rear cross traffic alerts have been introduced.

The alert system is more effective with a 22% reduction in backing crashes compared to a reduction of 17% with just the use of rear view cameras. The rear cross traffic alerts use sensors to detect objects coming from the side whereas the camera only gives a rear view.

Even more effective is the use of rear automatic emergency braking. When used alongside cameras and alerts it reduces the incidence of backing collisions by 78%.


Automatic High Beams

Automobiles with higher rated headlights are involved in 20% fewer nighttime crashes than cars with lower rated headlights. Automatic high beams take over the turning on and off of high beams but only 18% of drivers use this feature.

Curve adaptive headlights that illuminate the road ahead even when going around bends result in a 5% reduction in property damage claims and a 1.1% reduction in collision claims.


Distracting Automotive Technology

Some automotive technology is designed for driver convenience rather than safety and these features can have a negative impact on driver attention and alertness to hazards.


Hands-Free Phones

The purpose of hands-free phones was to reduce the manual use of cell phones while driving. However, while the use of hands-free devices means that both hands can be on the wheel and both eyes on the road ahead the level of mental distraction remains the same.


Head-Up Displays

Head-up displays are marketed as being a way of providing drivers with information while simultaneously keeping their eyes on the road. However, it depends on what is being displayed.

Safety information such as a blind spot warning may be useful but other displays or text may be pure distractions.


In-Vehicle Infotainment Systems

The proliferation of in-vehicle infotainment systems means that the dash of a vehicle can sometimes resemble a fighter jet cockpit.

With head-up displays, touchscreens and multiple choices of function they create distractions which can contribute to the rate of accidents and collisions.


Naming Automotive Technology For Marketing Rather Than Safety

While a lot of automotive safety technology is easy to recognize and understand by drivers, others are not. There is no standardization of naming these safety features and titles vary across the different car manufacturers.

Some unintended negative safety consequences of new technologies can result from this confusion. However, a list of standardized names of technological safety systems for automobiles was endorsed by the Department of Transportation in January 2020.

The hope is that automobile manufacturers, journalists and other organizations will adapt the new terms so that there is clarity on their function, intended use and safety benefits.


Driver Education On Automotive Technology

Some safety technologies can confuse drivers and not just because of what they are called. Systems such as lane departure warning can alert the driver but if they have not been taught the correct response the alert can cause alarm rather than the correct restorative action.

This type of system varies across different car makes and models. Where one vehicle may give an audible warning or visual cue that the car has drifted out of its lane others may take over and steer the vehicle back where it should be.

This can be alarming if the driver is unfamiliar with the system. The same can happen with adaptive cruise control. Setting this up can be complicated and on long car rides it is easy to forget that the system has been assigned preset speeds.

If the car in front which you have been following for many miles takes an exit, your car may accelerate to the pre-programmed speed that you had since forgotten you had selected.

This can be unsettling for the driver and cause them to overcorrect and potentially cause an accident. Being familiar with how the safety technology in the vehicle is important to get maximum benefit from it and to limit the surprises when some systems are activated.

The responsibility for understanding how the vehicle works rests with the driver who should read the manual and be aware of all the audio alerts and visual clues designed to alert them.

However, vehicle showrooms could do their part by thoroughly familiarizing new car owners with all the safety features before the automobile is driven off the lot.


Benefits Of Vehicle Automation

There is a safety benefit to some aspects of vehicle automation and the introduction of these systems is increasing. The active safety systems in many automobiles today are designed to assist rather than replace the actions of the driver.

The automatic emergency braking system and lane departure warnings intervene or bring the danger to the attention of the driver if they fail to act promptly. This is a good thing as there are so many distractions for drivers, many of which are in the vehicle itself.

These systems can only be a good thing with the reduction of accidents and injuries as the result of collisions. However, they do not remove the autonomy and responsibility of the driver.

Each vehicle driver should acquaint themselves with the safety technology in their car or truck, know how to use it and be aware of how it works.

Learning how to drive defensively while using a vehicle’s safety features will go a long way toward reducing the number of accidents and resulting injuries.