Are Driver Assist Features Effective during Inclement Weather?

driver assist

Although self-driving cars are not yet available for the public, today’s motor vehicles are equipped with a wide range of advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) that can help prevent a car accident if the driver does not react quickly enough. For example, according to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), forward collision warning and automatic braking reduced rear-end accidents by half. However, AAA found that certain ADAS, including blind spot warning, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control, may be less effective during inclement weather, including heavy rain. Unfortunately, it is under these conditions that roads can become treacherous, making these safety features that much more important. If you are involved in a car accident and the driver assist features meant to prevent an accident failed to work, you are urged to contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible.

What Driver Assist Systems Are Equipped in Today’s Vehicles? 

In 2019, close to 37,000 people were fatally injured in car accidents in the United States. Many of these accidents were caused by human error, including distracted driving, drowsy driving, speeding, and drunk driving. Fortunately, today’s motor vehicles are safer than ever thanks to the advanced safety features that come equipped in most newer models. The following are examples of some of the most common safety features that can help prevent accidents or reduce the severity of a serious car accident:

  • Forward collision warning: This monitors your speed and the speed of the vehicle in front of you. If you get too close to the vehicle that you are following, the system will warn you of an impending collision if you do not slow down. This system only provides the warning and does not engage the brakes to avoid a collision.
  • Lane departure warning: This system monitors the lane markings and alerts you if you start to drift out of your lane. It does not engage the steering to avoid a collision. It only alerts you to stay in your lane.
  • Blind spot warning: All vehicles have blind spots, and the larger the vehicle, the larger the blind spot. This system provides an audio and visual warning that there are vehicles in your blind spot that you may not see if you are about to change lanes.
  • Rear cross traffic warning: This system will alert you if there is another vehicle or a pedestrian approaching while you are in reverse. For example, if you are backing out of a spot in a parking lot, this system will alert you if a pedestrian is about to walk past your car.
  • Automatic emergency braking: Unlike the forward collision warning or the lane departure warning, this system applies the brakes automatically if you do not hit the brakes in time to avoid a collision. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), dynamic brake support has the potential to significantly improve vehicle safety by preventing rear-end car accidents that can range in severity from minor to severe.
  • Rear automatic braking: This system uses sensors to detect objects behind the vehicle and apply the brakes if it detects a potential collision while the vehicle is in reverse. 
  • Blind spot intervention: Although blind spot warning alerts you when another motorist is in your blind spot, this system will automatically apply the brakes or engage the steering to prevent you from changing lanes.
  • Adaptive cruise control: This will adjust your vehicle’s speed to maintain a safe distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Lane centering assistance: Using a camera-based vision system, this monitors the position of your vehicle within the lanes and continuously adjusts the steering to keep the vehicle centered between the two lanes.
  • Automatic high beams: This system will automatically switch to the high beams, and back to low beams based on lighting conditions and oncoming traffic. 
  • Backup camera: This prevents devastating accidents involving children and senior citizens by providing an image of the area behind your vehicle while it is in reverse. Effective May 2018, the NHTSA requires all vehicles to be equipped with this life-saving technology.
  • Automatic crash notification: This notifies emergency responders that an accident has occurred. The system detects when an airbag has deployed, or if there has been a sudden deceleration, at which time it will automatically connect to an operator who will obtain general information about the accident, including the address so that police and an ambulance can be sent. This reduces the amount of time it takes for emergency medical services to arrive at the accident scene and transport any injured motorists to the nearest hospital.

Why Do Driver Assist Systems Fail during Inclement Weather?

Driver assist systems rely on sensors and cameras that are equipped in the vehicle to see other vehicles, road markings, and pedestrians and alert the driver to slow down, stop, or adjust his or her driving to avoid an accident. However, according to the director of automotive engineering and industry relations at AAA, these systems are vulnerable to heavy rain and other environmental factors. AAA tested key safety systems in four SUVs from the 2020 model year, including the Buick Enclave, the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Toyota RAV 4, and the Volkswagen Tiguan, to determine whether rain and other environmental conditions would have a negative effect on the safety systems being tested. 

Researchers conducted the test in a closed-course environment and sprayed simulated rainfall onto the windshields of the vehicles. They found that the test vehicles that were equipped with forward emergency braking collided with a stopped vehicle 17 percent of the time when traveling at a speed of 25 mph. When the vehicle was traveling at a speed of 35 mph, the test vehicle crashed 33 percent of the time. The assumption is that if the cars were tested at higher speed, the systems would also fail at a higher percentile. When the vehicles were driving in ideal conditions, they did not crash.

Researchers also studied the vehicles’ lane keeping systems that prevented the cars from veering into other lanes and the system’s braking intervention. They found that, under ideal road conditions, the vehicles jumped the markers in 17 percent of the tests. During inclement weather, the failure rate jumped to almost 70 percent. Driving with a dirty windshield did not have a significant impact on the system’s performance. Too often, these vehicles are tested under pristine driving conditions, said the AAA spokesperson. However, that is not a reality. There are a range of weather-related conditions that can affect visibility and make driving conditions less safe. These advanced safety features are meant to alert drivers of an impending accident or engage if the motorist does not react in time. However, if visibility issues prevent them from working properly, drivers are at an increased risk of being injured in a car accident. Car manufacturers need to fine-tune these driver assist systems to ensure that they are effective at protecting you and the other passengers in the vehicle, and that they prevent serious accidents when the weather is less than ideal.

What Precautions Can I Take When Driving in Inclement Weather?

Since you may not always be able to depend on your vehicle’s driver assist systems to prevent you from getting into a car accident when it is raining heavily, or some other type of inclement weather is causing visibility issues, there are proactive steps you can take to stay safe and avoid being injured in a car accident, including the following:

  • Keep your windshield clean at all times. If there are any streaks or debris on the windshield, making it difficult for you to see, the ADAS sensors will not be able to function properly.
  • Anytime the weather causes reduced visibility or potentially unsafe road conditions, you are urged to slow down, increase your following distance between you and the car in front of you, and use extra caution. If possible, try to follow in the tracks of the other vehicles to avoid skidding or hydroplaning.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving during inclement weather. This will help you remain alert and ready for any changing road conditions. If you do begin to skid, do not slam on the brakes. Decrease your speed gradually and steer in the direction you want your car to go.

Baltimore Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Clients Injured in Car Accidents

If you or someone you know was seriously injured in a car accident during inclement weather and the vehicle’s advanced safety features failed to engage, you are urged to contact the Baltimore accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at your earliest convenience. We will determine the cause of the accident and ensure that the negligent party is held liable for your injuries. Our skilled legal team will advocate for you so that you receive the financial compensation for which you are entitled. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

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