Can Widespread Adoption of Safety Technologies Cut Traffic Fatalities?

Car backing up with backup camera engaged

Car accidents cause over 36,000 fatalities, 2.5 million injuries, and a staggering $800 billion in economic costs each year in the United States. To address this issue and identify ways to reduce the number of traffic fatalities in this country, Consumer Reports conducted a study about the benefits of equipping all new vehicles with existing safety technologies. They found that if existing safety technology came standard on the entire fleet of motor vehicles, it could reduce the number of fatalities by up to 20,500 lives, which is over one-half of the lives lost in 2018. Although many vehicles already come equipped with crash avoidance systems and other safety technology, automakers have yet to commit to making these technologies a standard feature. In addition, Congress and other federal agencies have not yet developed a regulatory framework for the adoption of this plan.

According to a manager of safety policy at Consumer Reports, Congress should be focusing their attention on making effective safety features more widely available instead of relying on self-driving vehicles to make our roads safer. There is no question that automated vehicle (AV) technology has the potential to reduce the number of accidents that occur simply by removing human error from the equation. However, AV technology has not yet been proven to save lives. In addition, the public trust in AV technology is low. After a recent fatality involving a self-driving car, the National Transportation Safety Board found that there were insufficient safety protocols in place.

Key Findings from the Study

Consumer Reports focused its study on the benefits of equipping all motor vehicles in the United States with existing safety technologies. The study found the following results:

  • Four safety systems can save 11,800 lives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW), and blind spot warning (BSW) can prevent approximately 11,000 fatalities if adopted fleetwide. An additional 800 deaths can be prevented by fully adopting current pedestrian detection systems.
  • Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication can save 1,300 lives. V2V communications technology has significant safety potential. According to the NHTSA, even using just two applications of the technology, including intersection movement assist (IMA) and left turn assist (LTA), can save 1,366 lives with full fleet adoption.
  • Up to 7,400 lives saved with drunk driving prevention technology. By equipping all vehicles with Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, 70 percent of drunk driving fatalities can be prevented. In 2018, approximately 10,500 motorists were killed in drunk driving accidents. This technology could save up to 7,400 lives.
  • In 2018, a total of 36,450 lives were lost as a result of car accidents. If motor vehicles were equipped with these key safety features, it could prevent between 16,800 and 20,500 fatalities each year.

Examples of Current Safety Systems

Different manufacturers may use marketing-friendly names for various safety systems, which confuse the consumer when shopping for a new car. The following are examples of current safety systems:

  • Forward collision warning (FCW): This detects a possible collision that can occur on the road using visual, auditory, or physical cues. If the driver ignores the cues, the system will apply the brakes. The system may also be able to detect a pedestrian.
  • Automatic emergency braking (AEB): This technology will apply the brakes if a collision is detected. This can avoid a collision or lessen the severity of the crash.
  • Pedestrian detection (PD): This system can detect if a pedestrian enters the vehicle’s path. Depending on the system, it will apply the brakes or make the vehicle come to a complete stop.
  • Adaptive headlights: As the driver turns the steering wheel, the headlights swivel, which provide better illumination, particularly when going around curves. This can improve reaction times by a third of a second, which can be just enough time to avoid an accident.
  • Lane departure warning (LDW): This uses cameras and sensors to monitor the position of the vehicle within the driving lane. If the vehicle gets too close to the lane or crosses over it, the system will alert the driver. Advanced systems can apply the brakes or adjust the steering wheel to guide the vehicle back into the lane.
  • Lane keeping assistance (LKA): This helps maintain the vehicle’s position within the lane and will control the steering if the vehicle starts to drift out of the lane.
  • Blind spot warning (BSW): This will alert the driver if another vehicle is approaching the car’s blind spot to the left or right of the vehicle.
  • Rear cross-traffic warning (RCTW): This detects vehicles approaching from the side as the driver travels in reverse and will alert the driver if another vehicle is approaching from the side or the rear. Advanced systems can alert the driver of bicycles and pedestrians.
  • Rear automatic emergency braking (rear AEB): This will detect an impending collision while the vehicle is traveling in reverse and apply the brakes to avoid an accident.
  • Adaptive cruise control (ACC): This controls the vehicle speed and will slow down or speed up in order to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles in the vicinity.
  • Parking obstruction warning (POW): This detects vehicles or other obstructions that are close to the car during parking maneuvers.
  • Automatic emergency steering (AES): This will control the steering to avoid a collision.
  • Drowsiness detection: Using a computer algorithm, the system compares the driver’s steering behavior with the recorded behavior from the beginning of the trip. Other systems can detect erratic behavior or the driver’s eye movement. The system may alert the driver with a chime, a tug on the seat belt, or an illuminated icon on the instrument panel. Other systems may engage the brakes.

How Do These Systems Work?

Advanced crash avoidance technology uses a range of different systems to monitor driver behavior and the roads around the vehicle, including cameras, short and long-range radar, sensors, and onboard computers. These systems can process information quickly and alert the driver if he or she is at risk of being in an accident. If an impending collision or some other safety issue is detected, the system will alert the driver with a beep, a flashing dashboard icon, or a tug on the seat belt. If the driver does not respond, a more advanced system will kick in and apply the brakes. Although some autonomous braking systems are more effective than others, they all offer a safety benefit to consumers. According to the chief research officer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, even if a braking system fails to prevent a car accident, the accident is likely going to be less severe if there is an automatic braking system, or if the driver was able to apply the brakes in response to the warning system.

Consumer Reports urges all automakers to install FCW, AEB with pedestrian detection, and BSW as standard features in all vehicles. Automakers who make these changes and direct consumers to those vehicles will receive extra credit toward the Overall Score provided by Consumer Reports. In addition, to receive a top score from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, vehicles must have FCW and AEB. The NHTSA is also looking to make certain collision avoidance systems mandatory.

In addition to the Consumer Reports study, the NHTSA found that installing AEB, LDW, and BSW in all new vehicles could reduce the number of traffic fatalities by approximately 11,000. Pedestrian detection systems can save an additional 800 lives. Unfortunately, only 67 percent of the automakers who pledged to make AEB a standard feature in all light-duty passenger vehicles have made the change for their 2020 model year lineup. In addition, Consumer Reports also found that some manufacturers take advantage of buyers by packaging life-saving safety features with expensive premium add-ons, such as sunroofs and stereo systems. In some cases, consumers are charged anywhere from $2,000 to $12,000 for BSW or AEB with pedestrian detection. For some consumers, this price tag is simply too high.

Baltimore Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of All Types of Car Accidents

If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Safety technology, such as blind spot warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning can help prevent accidents, or make them less severe, but if cars are not equipped with this technology, serious car accidents can occur. Our skilled legal team will investigate the details of your accident and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout 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.