Most vehicles are equipped with basic safety features like airbags, antilock brakes, and three-point seatbelts which are shown to reduce accidents and injuries. Recent developments in vehicle safety have also led to more advanced driver-assist technologies designed to prevent crashes before they occur, but are they really making our cars, trucks, and SUVs safer?
The answer is yes—with an important caveat. While these safety features are certainly beneficial, they are not a substitute for an engaged and attentive human driver. In fact, it is dangerous to assume cameras and radars will always detect and alert to hazards before a crash. Research has proven these systems have their limitations.
Treat these safety features as one more tool in your arsenal to reduce the chance of an accident, but always to remain fully alert and involved while driving. Safety systems are designed to improve your ability to respond to traffic hazards, not replace it.
What Is an Advanced Driver-Assistance System?
Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) refer to a range of technological features and equipment designed to make driving safer. ADAS function through a human-machine interface that increases the driver’s ability to respond to traffic hazards.
They utilize sensors and cameras to detect objects and people and alert the driver before a collision occurs. Some ADAS features come standard on certain vehicles, while others can be added aftermarket.
This is an overview of the most widely-used ADAS features on newer vehicles:
- Adaptive cruise control
- Antilock brakes
- Automatic emergency braking
- Blind-spot detection
- High bean safety system
- Front and rear collision warning
- Lane departure alert
- Pedestrian detection alert
- Road sign recognition
- Traffic signal recognition
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) created a size-level scale that classifies ADAS based on how much control the driver has over the vehicle’s functions. With a Level 0 feature like forward-collision warning or traffic sign recognition, the system merely provides information for the driver to interpret on their own. As the scale increases, the vehicle exhibits more control to aid the driver. Level 5 vehicles are fully autonomous.
Data Confirms Auto Safety Features Make Driving Safer
Research on vehicle safety systems is wide and varied, mostly because there are so many features to assess. However, most data points to a reduction in motor vehicle accidents in vehicles with ADAS.
Here are some key findings pulled from research on the correlation between ADAS and accident reduction:
- A study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found the crash rate for vehicles with blind-spot detection was 14 percent lower than similar models without that feature.
- That same IIHS study determined that if every vehicle sold in this country in 2015 had been equipped with blind spot detection, an estimated 50,000 accidents and 16,000 accident injuries would have been avoided.
- Research coming out of Carnegie Mellon found that vehicles with a combination of crash avoidance systems were 3.5 percent less likely to be involved in traffic accidents.
- According to data from the National Safety Council, front-to-rear crashes were cut by 50 percent in vehicles with forward collision brake warning. Injuries in similar accidents were reduced by 56 percent. Pedestrian accidents and injuries decreased by 27 and 30 percent respectively in vehicles with automatic braking with pedestrian detection.
While these statistics are encouraging and suggest a future where traffic accidents, injuries, and fatalities will be a thing of the past, drivers should be aware that auto safety features are far from foolproof.
Why You Cannot Rely on Your Car’s Safety Features
Car & Driver magazine tested automated emergency braking systems (AEB) in four different vehicle models. They determined that that while these systems did work as designed, they did not consistently brake fast or hard enough to avoid a collision.
If consumers look closely at the owner’s manuals for some of these vehicles, they will learn these AEB have blind spots. Some do not function when driving up a hill, in low visibility, or a times when a vehicle suddenly swerves in their path.
The AAA Foundation also studied vehicles equipped with active ADAS. The models they evaluated experienced some type of issue every eight miles. They had problems staying in their lane and veered too close to other objects. Many vehicles suddenly disengaged and transferred control of the vehicle back to the driver with little notice.
These are just a few examples of ADAS’ limitations. All technology has the potential to malfunction. Until these features are perfected, drivers have a duty to stay alert and in charge whenever they are behind the wheel.
What Is the Most Important Driving Safety Feature?
Of all of the equipment designed to protect you in a crash, you might be surprised what Kelley Blue Book calls, “the most critical safety feature.” Here is a hint: it is less high-tech that you might think.
Three-point seatbelts are the most important safety device in your vehicle. Since its introduction in 1959, the three-point seatbelt is believed to have saved more than one million lives. They are required in every new car, truck, and SUV.
When worn properly, a three-point seatbelt keeps occupants from flying through the cabin or out of the vehicle in a crash. Load limiters incorporated in the seatbelt design distribute the force upon the chest to reduce the impact and prevent serious injuries.
The most important step you and your passengers can take to protect yourself from serious and fatal injuries is buckle up before every trip.
If my ADAS fails, Am I Still Liable for a Car Accident?
There is a reason vehicles equipped with ADAS include a warning like this one from Cadillac: “Your complete attention is always required while driving and you should be ready to take action and apply the brakes.”
That disclaimer seems counterintuitive considering that the automaker touts their Super Cruise system as, “the world’s first true hands-free driving-assistance technology for compatible roads.” Car companies includes such warnings in their manuals and marketing materials to prevent litigation when ADAS in their vehicles fail to prevent accidents.
If you relinquish cognitive or physical control of your vehicle to autonomous driving systems and end up causing an accident, you are liable for the damage you cause. No ADAS or self-driving feature absolves the human driver from their duty to operate their vehicle in a safe manner in accordance with traffic laws.
The takeaway message in all of this data and testing? Utilize your vehicle’s safety features to avoid crashes, but do not rely on this technology to make decisions for the experienced, attentive, and responsible driver.
I Was Hit by a Careless Driver. Can I Bring a Personal Injury Claim Against Them?
If you were on the other side of the accident and injured by a careless driver, you may have grounds to bring a claim for compensation. Virginia Once you have had medical attention for your injuries and filed a police report, your next step should be a consultation with a skilled car accident lawyer.
It is wise to speak with an experienced car accident attorney before you contact the insurance company, so you are fully aware of your rights and responsibilities. Auto insurers may offer you a quick settlement, but very often, if your injuries are severe, you may be entitled to additional compensation.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC, Provide Skilled Legal Counsel for Clients Across the Commonwealth
Even with innovative safety systems, car accidents are still an unfortunate reality. Virginia Beach car accident lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC believe in every client’s right to justice. Call 757-LAW-0000 or contact the firm online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. Located in Virginia Beach, our team proudly represents clients in and around Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Newport News, Norfolk, Hampton, Eastern Shore, and all of Virginia and the nation through our network of associated attorneys.