Car safety features have promise but are slow to come

New automobiles are now offering safety features that can significantly reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities, but it will take time to realize the results.

It typically takes at least three decades before 95 percent of vehicles on the road have a given feature, the Highway Loss Data Institute has previously estimated. That projection is based on availability, meaning the feature could be standard or optional, according to an article in the December 2017 issue of Status Report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Federal mandates, safety ratings that reward certain features, and other factors can speed up the rate at which technology ends up in new models and therefore in registered vehicles.

HLDI analyses of claims data and IIHS studies of police-reported crashes indicate that several crash-avoidance technologies are reducing crashes reported to insurers and police, with the biggest benefits so far for front-crash prevention. The overall impact on highway safety, however, has been limited due to the small number of vehicles on the road equipped with the mostly optional technologies.

However, parking assist systems are spreading faster in the fleet than front-crash prevention and other crash-avoidance features, indicates a new report from HLDI examining how many vehicles are equipped with various driver assistance technologies. Rear cameras, which were introduced on model year 2002 vehicles, are the only feature HLDI estimates will be on more than half of the registered vehicle population in 2021 — and the only one subject to a federal mandate. Nearly a quarter of the 2016 registered vehicle fleet had rear cameras, and they were available on more than a third of vehicles. Rear cameras will be required on most new vehicles starting May 1 as a way to reduce back-over crashes involving children and pedestrians, according to IIHS. HLDI studies of insurance losses have shown that rear-view cameras and rear parking sensors reduce claim rates for damage to other vehicles. An HLDI study of police-reported crashes indicates that rear-view cameras could prevent nearly one in six police-reported backing crashes.

Front autobrake, which has shown large reductions in crashes reported to insurers and to police, will have the most growth, increasing from less than 1 percent of the registered fleet in 2016 to about 5 percent in 2021. Automakers have voluntarily committed to make front autobrake standard on nearly all new models sold by 2022.

So the next time you are in the market for a new automobile, seriously consider one with as many new safety features you can afford. It may save a life or serious injury.

For more articles on traffic law and safety, go to the traffic safety board’s website at “http://www.franklincony.org”>www.franklincony.org and click on “Traffic Safety Board” under departments; then look for “Did You Know” articles under “services.” You may also email me at dwerner151@verizon.net

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