Do New Vehicle Safety Features Actually Prevent Car Accidents?

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Today’s vehicles come equipped with a wide range of safety features that do everything from alerting you when you start to veer out of your lane to providing extra braking assistance to avoid a car accident. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), these advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) can help reduce the number of car accidents that occur and prevent the serious personal injuries that car accidents can cause. Although these safety features make today’s vehicles safer than ever, if motorists rely too heavily on their vehicles’ technology, they may start to zone out or assume that the vehicle is going to prevent an accident from occurring. It is important that all drivers are aware of the limitations associated with safety technology, and that they stay alert and aware of their surroundings at all times. If you are injured in a car accident that was caused by another driver who was not paying attention to his or her surroundings, you are urged to contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible.

What Do Drivers Need to Know about the Limitations of Vehicle Safety Technology?

There is no question that the safety technology that is equipped in most new vehicles makes them significantly safer than older cars. However, until cars are fully automated, it is important that motorists understand the limitations of some of these safety features, rather than relying on them to prevent an accident. Keep the following limitations in mind any time you are behind the wheel:

  • ADAS cannot do everything. According to the technical director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, these systems are not foolproof. For example, during inclement weather, the vehicle’s camera and sensors may not be able to “see” the road clearly. The effectiveness of the ADAS varies based on the make and model of the vehicle and the specific situation. As such, drivers should treat ADAS as an aid rather than a crutch, said the manager of driving operations at AAA.
  • Drivers are often unfamiliar with their vehicle’s technology and how it works. A 2018 AAA study found that 40 percent of respondents assumed that the forward collision warning system would automatically engage the emergency brake. However, rather than applying the brake, the vehicle alerted the motorist with a light. Motorists also thought that the blind spot monitoring system could “see” everything in the vicinity of the vehicle, including pedestrians and bicyclists. However, this system only recognizes fast-moving cars.
  • Motorists often lose focus or become distracted. When motorists use their cruise control, or other features that take over even a small part of the driving, they are more likely to start daydreaming or focus on something other than the road ahead. According to a study conducted by the AAA Foundation with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, experienced drivers or those who are long-term owners of a vehicle that was equipped with these technologies were more likely to become distracted while using the systems compared with drivers who were not yet regular users of the system.
  • Motorists rely too heavily on the vehicle’s safety features. A recent study found that over 60 percent of motorists felt comfortable taking their eyes off the road because the vehicle’s safety features would notify them about a potential safety hazard. In addition, 58 percent said that they do not always check the vicinity for pedestrians because they rely on the car’s sensors to alert them. These safety features certainly make driving safer for motorists, but they do not replace the role of the driver.

What Are Some of the Most Effective Safety Features?

Although it is important that motorists do not rely too heavily on their vehicle’s safety features, there is no question that the safety technology that is equipped in today’s cars can help prevent accidents. Certain features are particularly effective at detecting an emergency and warning the driver of an impending crash. The following are examples of safety features that motorists should look for when purchasing a new vehicle:

  • Automatic emergency braking systems. Even for experienced and responsible drivers, this is an essential safety feature because it drastically stops or slows down the car when it detects a collision. This is a standard safety feature in many new cars and will likely become mandatory in the years to come.
  • Blind-spot monitoring. This uses video data or radar to monitor the areas around the vehicle that the driver cannot see from the rearview or side mirrors. The larger the vehicle, the larger the blind spots; therefore, this technology is particularly important in SUVs and minivans. When another vehicle is approaching the vehicle’s blind spot, the system will alert the driver, either with a visual cue or a series of beeps.
  • Forward-collision warning (FCW). Vehicles equipped with this safety technology can detect other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, and other objects that are in front of your vehicle. Depending on the type of system that the vehicle is uses, it will issue a visual and/or tactile alert to warn the driver.
  • Rear cross-traffic warning. Backup cameras are now standard in new vehicles. Rear cross-traffic warning systems also monitor the area behind the car and will issue a warning if another vehicle is approaching while you are backing up. Many motorists have reported that this system has been extremely effective at preventing fender-benders.
  • Lane-keeping systems. This technology can take control of the vehicle and help steer the car back to the center of the lane.

What Are Examples of Standard Safety Features?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the IIHS are two of the safety organizations of the government that determine which auto safety features should be mandated. The following are examples of safety features that are standard in all new vehicles:

  • Airbags have been mandatory since 1999 for all passenger cars, light trucks, and vans. According to the IIHS, front airbags reduce driver fatalities in frontal crashes by close to 30 percent and reduce front seat passenger fatalities by 32 percent.
  • Seat belts. The NHTSA reports that wearing a seat belt in the front seat can reduce the risk of a fatal injury by close to 50 percent. It is one of the simplest yet most effective safety features, but motorists need to buckle up for seat belts to work.
  • Anti-lock brakes. An anti-lock braking system has been mandatory in all new passenger cars since 2000. When the brakes lock, you have little control over the vehicle because the wheels are no longer rotating. The car will begin sliding towards whatever you are trying to avoid hitting, whether that is another vehicle, a pedestrian, a cyclist, or some other object. This technology helps the driver maintain steering control during emergency braking.
  • Backup camera. Also called a rearview camera, this has been mandatory in all passenger cars, light trucks, and vans since 2018. The camera is activated when the car is in reverse, allowing the driver to see objects that are behind the car.
  • Tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Mandatory in all passenger vehicles, light trucks, and vans since 2007, TPMS uses a sensor inside each tire to monitor the air pressure.

How Do Advanced Safety Features Impact Car Insurance?

Because advanced safety features can help prevent car accidents, you might assume that you would get a discount on your car insurance. However, that is not necessarily true. Although ADAS-equipped vehicles are safer because the technology can help prevent serious car accidents, these vehicles are also more expensive, both to purchase and to maintain. The repair costs are also higher. For example, ADAS-equipped vehicles are more complicated to repair, as the system often needs to be recalibrated after an accident. In addition, many insurance companies argue that there is not enough data to support the safety claims made by the auto industry. According to the group leader at the Center for Advanced Automotive Research at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, if the auto industry is taking steps to develop safety technology that dramatically reduces traffic deaths, insurance companies should offer discounts to customers. This could motivate consumers who are on the fence about purchasing a vehicle with ADAS features, either owing to the increased cost or a lack of awareness of the benefits. Ultimately, if you can afford a vehicle that is equipped with some of the most effective safety features, it is highly recommended that you do so. However, you should not expect any discount from your insurance company.


Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Clients after an Accident

If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Vehicles equipped with the latest technology are effective only if motorists are paying attention to their surroundings and following the rules of the road. Our legal team will determine who is responsible for causing the accident and will assist you with every step of the claims process. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.