There is a school of thought which suggests that modern technology not only fails to prevent automobile accidents but makes drivers less astute when on the road. According to this theory, technology such as lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring cause drivers to become too reliant on tech, which leads to dwindling driving skills.

Anecdotal evidence and a correlation mistaken for causation are the primary basis for these claims. A single piece of evidence is behind this belief—an increase in fatal crashes in the United States in the last few years correlating with an increase in safety technology in vehicles.

In 2015, there were 32,166 fatal crashes in America. By 2017, that figure had increased to 34,247 causing 37,133 deaths—this doesn’t even include the millions of non-fatal accidents.  These incidents may result in the need for a personal injury attorney and are life-changing, or life-ending situations for motorists.

Car that has been in accident with a smashed windshield and deployed airbag

Technology Saves Lives = Fact!

Those who claim technology is bad for drivers may only have a correlation to support their assertion, but those who suggest modern technology is a lifesaver have an array of scientific studies at their disposal. In fact, motor safety technology has been saving lives for decades.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention included motor vehicle safety amongst its top ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. Between 2000 and 2009, the number of vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. increased by over 8 percent, but the death rate plummeted from 14.9 per 100,000 people to just 11. Improvements included child safety seat and seat belt regulations.

As technology improved, it was evident that newer and better ways to reduce traffic deaths would come to be. Today, researchers can identify the main reasons for automobile accidents, and distracted driving tops the list. Examples include:

  • Taking your hands off the wheel
  • Not focusing on the road
  • Using a cellphone while driving

Cellphone use on the road is a significant problem and reduces reaction times. According to a study by Beede and Kass, published in Accident Analysis & Prevention in 2006, cellphone use impaired driving performance in every measured metric including lapses in attention, slower response time, and an increase in traffic violations. Even speaking on a hands-free phone is detrimental to driving performance.

Studies Showing the Benefits of Modern Safety Technology

The International Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is adamant that new driving systems are saving lives. Jessica Cicchino, vice president of the research department, analyzed over 5,000 accidents in 2015 with an emphasis on collisions that blind spot and lane departure warning systems are designed to prevent.

Overall, vehicles with warning systems were involved in 11 percent fewer accidents involving sideswipe and head-on crashes than cars without the systems. Moreover, collision avoidance technology reduced injury crashes of the same type by over 20 percent. Many drivers deactivate the warning system due to annoyance over the alerts which means it is likely that even more people would avoid crashes if they kept their system on all the time.

Incredibly, the IIHS believes that if every vehicle in the United States had a lane departure warning system, it would reduce the number of automobile crashes in the nation by 85,000 in a year and the number of injuries by an astounding 55,000.

This is far from the only study conducted by the IIHS. In January 2016, it published results of a study in Status Report. On this occasion, the emphasis was on the performance of front-crash prevention systems. The IIHS found that a forward-collision system alone reduces the number of rear-end crashes by 23 percent and that vehicles with a fully automatic braking system are 40 percent less likely to be involved in a rear-end crash.

If all automobiles in the United States had an autobraking system that worked efficiently, there would have been 700,000 fewer rear-end crashes—a 13 percent reduction—and that figure only relates to accidents of this nature reported to the police.

On the same page, the IIHS also cited a study which analyzed rear-end crashes in over 20 states between 2010 and 2014. Once again, these figures only relate to police-reported accidents. Five brands were analyzed:

  • Acura
  • Honda
  • Subaru
  • Volvo
  • Mercedes-Benz

The researchers compared the crash rates of automobiles equipped with front-crash prevention systems to those without the technology. According to the analyses, a forward-collision warning system by itself reduces rear-end crashes by 23 percent. When autobrake is a factor as well, accidents are reduced by 39 percent, and with City Safety the reduction rises to 41 percent.

Autobrake also significantly reduces injuries. For example, in vehicles with a forward-collision warning system and autobrake, the rate of rear-end crash injuries is reduced by 42 percent and rises to 47 percent with City Safety included.

According to Cicchino, an autobrake system reduces impact speed, and that can have a major impact on the prevention of injuries. You don’t need scientific studies to know that you will incur more serious injuries at 50mph than 20mph!

Another IIHS study, this time published in December 2018, looked once again at lane departure prevention. On this occasion, the IIHS analyzed the lane departure systems of Honda, Volvo, General Motors, and Ford models. Using video from outboard cameras and a camera aimed at the steering wheel, researchers assessed whether an automobile crossed the lane marker by more than 35 cm.

Volvo’s S90 system ranked best and avoided the 35cm threshold 100 percent of the time. Both the Ford Fusion and Honda Accord performed poorly, exceeding the limit 80 percent of the time.

What Modern Safety Technology is Available?

In 2015, there were approximately 6 million crashes on American roads. Despite this startling statistic, implementation of systems such as collision avoidance is occurring at a glacial pace. According to Cicchino, just 9 percent of vehicles sold in 2017 came with blind spot alerts, and 6 percent came with a lane departure system.

Cost is a significant factor because a reliable safety system can add thousands of dollars to the price of a vehicle—and perhaps you’ll get lucky by avoiding death and earning a settlement due to the help of a reputable car accident attorney. If that sounds less than ideal, it is a good idea to see what is available!

Autobrakes

Also known as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), this feature alerts you to an imminent crash and helps you use the vehicle’s full braking capacity. The low-speed option is for city driving as it detects cars in front of your vehicle and potentially prevents minor injuries such as whiplash.

The high-speed option scans up to 200 meters in front of you and comes equipped with a long-range radar when driving faster. There is also a pedestrian system which picks up the movement of pedestrians and analyses the risk of a collision.

Incredibly, AEB was first displayed in 1996 at the Detroit Auto Show but was not available in mainstream family vehicles for another 20 years or so. Incidentally, a study conducted at the University of Adelaide found that an AEB system could reduce the risk of fatal collision by up to 25 percent, and the risk of injury by up to 30 percent.

Lane Departure Systems

We have mentioned this system already, but it is primarily designed to reduce the number of driving errors caused by distraction. All it takes is a split second, whether you are changing radio stations or checking a text message, and while distracted you may shift the steering wheel. If you have a lane departure system, its camera tells you if your vehicle has drifted across a lane.

Typically, you should receive a visual or audio notification, or your car will vibrate. Certain systems automatically take steps to bring the car back into its lane if the driver has failed to react to the initial warning.

Nissan was the first car brand to offer this feature in 2001. It was available on their Cima model sold in Japan. Toyota followed suit in 2002, but the lane departure system was not available in North America until 2004 when Valeo and Iteris jointly developed it on the Nissan M series and the Infiniti FX.

Forward Collision Warning (FCW)

FCW systems are designed to either reduce the severity of a collision or prevent one altogether. They utilize laser, radar, and a camera to detect an imminent crash, and their GPS sensors can detect a fixed object like a stop sign that is directly ahead. When this system detects something, it either warns the driver or takes action automatically to prevent an accident.

Blind Spot Warning

Once again, this is an excellent system to reduce the number of accidents caused by distracted motorists. Regardless of the model of car you drive, there will always be a blind spot which causes thousands of automobile accidents annually. With a blind spot warning system, you receive a visual or audible notification if there is a vehicle in your blind spot. Certain systems also include an extra warning if you use your turn signal at a time when there is another automobile in the next lane.

Volvo was the first company to introduce blind spot warning indicators. The general public first saw the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) in 2005. In this old system, cameras were in the rear-view mirrors of cars, and a computer processed an image from the camera to see if there was a car or object you could potentially hit while changing lanes.

BLIS was available with the Volvo S80 sedan in 2007, but the carmaker has improved upon the system in the 12 years since. Newer systems use radar located in the back of your vehicle in proximity to the rear bumpers.

LED Headlights

Motorists with cars utilizing low-quality headlights at night significantly increase their risk of being involved in an accident. LED headlights are far brighter than traditional halogen lighting and last up to 20 years longer. LEDs also convert 80 percent of the energy they use into light. In contrast, halogen bulbs only convert 20 percent of energy into light. LED lights are bright but don’t blind your fellow motorists.

The first practical LED was created back in 1962 but are a relatively new addition to vehicles. Lexus was the first company to include a full LED headlight when it introduced its LS 600h L.

Auto Steering

Those who hear about this feature assume it is a self-driving car, but that isn’t the case. Auto steering takes the wheel away from a driver in specific situations to avoid an accident. It works by applying the brakes and steering around an object, car, or pedestrian in the path of the vehicle while doing its utmost to stay inside the right lane. An increasing number of auto steering systems work with AEB systems.

In 2018, General Motors announced the future release of the Cruise AV. It will be the first car to have no pedals or steering! As human error accounts for 94 percent of crashes, GM believes that its new vehicle will eliminate that aspect of driving and make the roads safer for all.

Final Thoughts

It seems inevitable that modern safety technology, once implemented, will significantly reduce the number of road accidents in the United States and all over the world. However, it is important not to rely solely on the abilities of any system, no matter how good it is.

Sadly, automobile accidents are a part of life as tens of millions of Americans use our terrific highways each day. If you are involved in an accident, make sure you get information from all involved parties if possible, and ensure that you and all parties receive medical care.

Once you establish that you are in no physical danger, it is time to get in touch with an experienced car accident attorney firm like Greenberg, Walden, and Grossman Inc. Our team of personal injury attorneys have decades of litigation experience in the field of auto accidents and would be happy to help.