Accident Risk High When Distracted, Smart Cars Help
Gregg Hollander | March 2, 2016 | Car Accidents
Distracted drivers are more than twice as likely to crash their vehicle. That’s according to a recent Virginia Tech study published in the journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences.
This was the first large-scale, crash-only analysis of naturalistic driving data to study this issue. Researchers culled information from 3,500 drivers and 1,600 crashes over a three-year time frame using multiple on-board videos, radars and sensors. What they discovered was that crash causation has shifted dramatically in recent years. Ninety percent of crashes during the study period involved some type of driver error, which included fatigue, impairment or simple error. But most of the time, the problem was distraction, usually with a handheld electronic device.
In light of the impact smart phones have on driving, smart cars have become all the more desirable. Another study, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), revealed vehicles equipped with front crash prevention technology are far less likely – by 40 percent – to be involved in a rear-end collision.
Even those vehicles that only had a forward collision warning – with no automatic braking – had their risk of a rear-end crash reduced by 23 percent.
That doesn’t mean, obviously, that smart cars are the only solution, and we don’t want drivers having a false sense of security about these systems; they aren’t unassailable. For as long as humans are in control of vehicles, they must prioritize alertness, sobriety and caution. Still, with distraction being such a widespread problem, crash prevention technology is welcome.
According to IIHS, which analyzed crash data from 2013, if all vehicles were equipped with these auto-braking systems, there would have been 700,000 fewer police-reported rear-end collisions that year. That would effectively represent a 13 percent reduction in overall police-reported crashes.
The chief research officer of the study noted this would represent a huge step toward safer roads. As the technology becomes more widely-used, we’ll see noticeably fewer high-end crashes, he said.
Not only that, but the crashes that do occur will probably result in lesser injuries. That’s because both auto-braking and audible collision warnings give drivers more time to react – even if it’s only a few seconds. That can make a huge difference in the speed and angle at which a crash occurs – and both factors matter when it comes to the severity of resulting injuries.
The IIHS study looked at police-reported crashes in 22 states between 2010 and 2014 that involved Honda, Acura, Subaru, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo vehicles that had optional front-end crash prevention. Researchers then compared the rear-end crashes rates of the models equipped with the technology to those that were not.
Rear-end crash rates are valuable to analyze because they are usually attributed to the rear driver’s error, such as failure to yield or failure to maintain an assured clear distance. That’s why there is a presumption of liability against the rear driver in such crashes. In an increasing number of cases, that driver is distracted.
Other technology, such as adaptive cruise control (which helps to maintain a safe, assured clear distance) can also help to improve safety on the road.
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Study: Crash risk far higher for distracted drivers, Feb. 25, 2016, Palm Beach Post