IIHS: Avoidance Systems Could Cut Fatal Crashes By One-Third

May 25, 2010
Infiniti Lane Departure Warning (LDW)

Infiniti Lane Departure Warning (LDW)

One in three fatal crashes and one of every five serious or moderate injury crashes in passenger vehicles could have been prevented if the vehicle had been equipped with crash-avoidance features including blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems, side view assist, and adaptive headlights.

That's what the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates in its first wide-ranging estimates regarding accident-avoidance features. The insurance-funded safety organization suggests that the potential lifesaving affects of these accident-avoidance systems are staggering.

The IIHS analyzed crash data from the National Automotive Sampling System General Estimates System (NASS GES) and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and looked at which vehicles had forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, side view assist, and adaptive headlamps. They also looked for evidence that bad weather might affect operation of any of these features.

The fresh data adds to results from smaller studies the IIHS has done over the past couple of years. More occupants of passenger vehicles die in frontal crashes than in any other type of crash, the IIHS says. Lane-departure warning systems have the potential to avert the most fatal crashes—when a driver falls asleep and hits a tree or goes down a rocky embankment, for instance, while forward collision warning systems have the most potential to reduce injury crashes—such as when a distracted driver doesn't see that traffic ahead has stopped. Side view assist was shown to have the least affect on injuries and fatalities because of the less severe nature of the crashes themselves.

Adaptive headlights, which swivel to the side when cornering, or otherwise statically help when you're maneuvering in the dark, could help save 2,500 lives per year, or avert 142,000 crashes of varying severity annually.

"This is a best-case-scenario estimate," said IIHS senior vice president for research, Anne McCartt, in the institute's May 20, 2010 Status Report newsletter. "We're not sure yet if the benefits will play out in everyday driving. A lot depends on whether the systems work as they're designed to and then whether drivers take the right corrective actions in response.

Several of these technologies would also provide an advantage to bicyclists and pedestrians, further reducing fatality and injury numbers.

Traffic accident

Traffic accident

These features, of course, still add thousands of dollars to the price tag of new vehicles and are mainly available on luxury vehicles from some of the more tech- and safety-focused luxury automakers. For now, they're essentially added protection that comes with being able to afford these vehicles.

But as with other tech and safety features, with volume comes lower cost. While electronic stability control systems cost, by some estimates, nearly $1,000 per vehicle when they were first widely offered on luxury sport sedans and coupes in the mid and late 1990s and cost several more in some instances to add as an option, stability control is now standard on many of the most affordable vehicles—including the 2010 Toyota Yaris, at $12,355, and the 2010 Kia Forte, at $13,695.

Volvo and Infiniti in particular have offered most of the mentioned features for several years and were the subject of an IIHS study last year looking at early adopters and how useful the systems were perceived to be. Although a portion of users found the devices annoying, there's now some hard data to suggest that they're serving their purpose and saving lives.


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