Crash avoidance technologies such as forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning are credited with reducing traffic collisions and saving lives. But vehicle safety technology does not replace the driver’s duty of care. And sometimes, the technology itself can cause—rather than prevent—car accidents.
Increasing Roadway Deaths: Is More Tech the Answer?
Vehicle crashes and traffic deaths have surged in the U.S. since the pandemic. Up until 2019, roadway deaths were generally declining. Then, from around the summer of 2019 to the summer of 2021, there was an increase in crashes and related deaths. This trend continued through 2022 even as the pandemic faded.
Reducing traffic fatalities is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Biden-Harris Administration. The DOT’s National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS) aims to save lives by focusing on safer people, roads, and vehicles.
As part of the NRSS, the government is encouraging the adoption of vehicle safety technologies. From 1960 – 2012, vehicle safety technologies saved over 600,000 lives, according to the DOT. The National Transportation Safety Board would like to see collision avoidance systems, including forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, on all new vehicles.
Types of Collision Avoidance Technologies
The Highway Loss Data Institute, a nonprofit research organization supported by the insurance industry, has found that collision avoidance technologies are reducing the frequency of auto accident claims.
HLDI’s findings summarizes results based on technologies that include:
- Forward-collision warning uses sensors to detect when a vehicle is getting too close to another vehicle or a pedestrian.
- Auto emergency braking alerts drivers of emergency situations and automatically applies the brakes in certain situations. Cars may be equipped with front and/or rear emergency braking.
- Lane departure warning tracks a vehicle’s position using cameras and alerts the driver if the vehicle strays across lane markings, sometimes redirecting the vehicle automatically.
- Parking sensors detect nearby objects in a vehicle’s path to assist with parking and backing up.
- Curve adaptive headlights pivot based on steering wheel movement to improve curved road night visibility.
HLDI concludes that many—but not all—collision avoidance technologies are associated with reductions in car accident claims. Increased claim frequency was seen with lane departure warning and rear cameras.
Crash Avoidance Systems Don’t Always Work as Intended
Many of the latest collisions avoidance technologies are optional on new vehicles. But over time, safety technologies tend to become mandatory. Electronic stability control, for example, has been mandated on all passenger vehicles since 2012.
AAA estimates that if every new vehicle was equipped with safety systems like forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, and lane keeping assist, this would prevent more than 2.7 million crashes, 1.1 million injuries, and 9,500 deaths every year.
New technologies, however, often have unintended consequences. Anyone who drives a newer vehicle equipped with collision avoidance technology knows that these systems can be extremely costly to repair. There is also evidence that driver overreliance on these systems, and misunderstandings about their limitations, can increase diver distraction and cause deadly accidents.
But even when drivers understand how safety technologies work, the technology may fail due to conditions or a defect.
- Rain, sleet, snow, and fog can adversely affect system performance and lead to a crash.
- Automatic or emergency braking systems can malfunction, causing a vehicle to not stop, or to stop unexpectedly.
- Self-driving features, such as adaptive cruise control, lane-centering, and hands-free steering, have been linked to many crashes. NHTSA recently reported 400 crashes over an 11-month period in vehicles with partially automated driver-assist systems.
There have been numerous investigations, lawsuits, and recalls related to collision avoidance technologies. To name a few:
- NHTSA probed the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s automatic braking system over complaints that it stopped for no reason.
- Nissan was hit with a class action lawsuit over complaints that its automatic braking system deactivated suddenly and without warning.
- Acura recalled nearly 50,000 cars because of an emergency braking system glitch that could become confused by normal roadway objects and unnecessarily apply the brakes.
- Honda recalled over 114,00 cars and Ford recalled more than 382,000 SUVs for backup camera issues linked to crash risks.
Vehicle Technology and Car Accident Lawsuits
Crash avoidance systems don’t necessarily let drivers off the hook for negligence. There are cases, though, where safety technology is to blame for a crash.
Every serious car accident demands a full investigation. If vehicle safety system failure is determined to be a crash factor, it could lead to a claim against the auto manufacturer.
For a free car accident case review, call 1-800-621-8585 or Contact Us.