When you walk onto the showroom floor of a car dealer in Costa Mesa or elsewhere in Orange County, you’ll encounter salespeople eager to show off brand new cars, pick-ups, SUVs and vans equipped with the latest advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).
The systems can include features such as automatic rear braking (can include rearview cameras and parking sensors), forward collision warning (can also include automatic emergency braking), blind-spot warning, lane-keep assistance, adaptive cruise control and more.
More reliance, more danger?
While salespeople gush about these features, many consumers are skeptical, and some safety advocates worry that drivers are becoming more and more reliant on ADAS and less and less engaged in driving – which makes drivers more dangerous regardless of the high-tech packed into their vehicle.
There is abundant research showing that disengaged and distracted drivers are more likely to cause motor vehicle crashes that result in serious injuries or fatalities.
A recent proposal in the U.S. Senate aims to determine to what degree ADAS technologies encourage drivers to become reliant on the safety tech and then disengage from crucial aspects of driving such as scanning the traffic ahead and to the side and behind, maintaining a safe distance between vehicles, recognizing and complying with traffic signals, noticing and observing speed limits, etc.
The Stay Aware for Everyone (SAFE) Act directs the federal Department of Transportation to determine with research the degree of disengagement caused by ADAS, and then based on those results, require the installation of driver monitoring systems to mitigate distracted and disengaged driving.
While there is undoubtedly a need for research into ADAS-related disengagement, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute have analyzed data on the effectiveness of ADAS in preventing collisions, reducing auto damage and decreasing the severity of injuries in crashes.
Last year, the two organizations did a deep dive into data on police-reported auto accidents and insurance claims for vehicles equipped with ADAS and those without the technology.
Forward collision warning systems reduced:
- Front-to-rear crashes by 27 percent
- Front-to-rear crashes with injuries by 20 percent
- Insurance claims for damage to other vehicles by 9 percent
- Insurance claims for injuries to people in other vehicles by 17 percent.
Forward collision with warning and auto braking reduced:
- Front-to-rear crashes by 50 percent
- Front-to-rear crashes with injuries by 56 percent
- The number of insurance claims for damage to other vehicles by 14 percent
- Reduced the number of insurance claims for injuries to people in other vehicles by 24 percent.
Lane-departure and braking, too
In addition, lane departure warning systems reduced single-vehicle, side-swipe and head-on collisions by 11 percent.
The organizations also determined that rear automatic braking, when combined with rearview camera and parking sensors, cut braking accidents by 78 percent and lowered insurance claims for damage to other vehicles by 28 percent.
While these high-tech safety systems have obvious benefits, those positives don’t allay concerns that the technologies themselves enable driver complacency that diminishes those benefits and makes drivers more dangerous.