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Crash avoidance features really do work

December 8, 2012
By DAVE WERNER ( , Franklin County Traffic Safety Board

About four years ago, a "Did You Know" article discussed the emergence of several safety innovations that were just becoming available on new vehicles. Now, there is proof that some of these features are really working and actually do prevent crashes and injuries. Automakers are deploying new technology on all sides of vehicles and in every direction to prevent crashes or at least lessen their severity.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studied insurance claims associated with vehicles equipped with crash avoidance technologies. This information, provided by the Highway Loss Data Institute, showed the biggest crash reductions were in vehicles equipped with collision avoidance systems, particularly those that can brake autonomously, along with adaptive headlights, which shift direction as the driver steers.

According to the IIHS, in their July edition of "Status Report," the crash avoidance features showing significant reductions in claims, include forward collision avoidance, adaptive headlights and lane departure warning. Other features that the HLDI is gathering data on include blind spot detection, park assist and backup cameras. All these systems are beginning to make their way into mainstream vehicles, beyond the luxury models where they started out. For example, one of the top-selling vehicles, the Toyota Camry, comes with optional blind spot detection for 2012. The current Ford Taurus has optional forward collision warning and blind spot detection, states the IIHS.

But the list of high-tech features on the market or soon to be available is much longer. Other examples include cross traffic alert, which warns a driver if traffic is about to enter the vehicle's path from the side; curve speed warning, which uses GPS and speed information to determine if the vehicle is about to take a curve too fast; and fatigue warning, which tracks steering and other driver behaviors to determine if the driver is inattentive or in danger of falling asleep. Night vision assist uses infrared imaging to produce an enhanced view of the road ahead, projecting objects on a display before they are visible through the windshield. What a great feature for driving in deer country!

Lane departure prevention goes a step further than lane departure warning by gently guiding the vehicle back into its lane position if it begins to stray.

Once these other features have been around long enough in enough vehicles, HLDI may be able to examine their effect on claims, too. However, according to the IIHS, it's becoming more difficult to evaluate the effects of individual features because they are increasingly bundled together. This makes it particularly important to develop tests that can evaluate the performance of each feature.

The Insurance Institute's website has a wealth of information on crash avoidance technologies. New animated videos demonstrate how some of the most common features are designed to operate. Forward collision warning, adaptive headlights, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and backup cameras are all illustrated and explained. I highly recommend that you go to the IIHS's website at:, and view these short videos to learn how these new technologies actually work. With this knowledge, you can decide if your next vehicle should be equipped with some or all of these new technologies for safer driving.



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