There are more than 250 million passenger vehicles licensed for use on the roads in the US, according to the US Department of Transportation. With so many vehicles sharing limited road space, improving driver safety has never been more important.
Car manufacturers have understood this for many years, and are regularly introducing new technology that provides driver assistance to improve safety. Here’s a quick look at some of the tech developments in the auto industry that are reducing accidents and making driving safer.
Preventing Tailgating and Forward Collisions
Driving too close to the vehicle in front, also known as tailgating, creates a big accident risk, as reaction time is reduced if the car in front breaks suddenly. Forward collision avoidance systems and adaptive cruise control are two new technologies that prevent tailgating and can massively reduce these types of accidents.
Forward collision avoidance systems use a series of sensors to measure the distance from the vehicle in front. When you get too close, the system alerts you and reminds you to slow down. It may also prepare the brakes for a sudden stop and, if you fail to respond to the initial alert, apply braking suitable to the situation.
Adaptive cruise control works in a similar way. It maintains a safe distance from the car in front when driving in heavy traffic. This technology is more common in high-end cars because of its cost, but it is beginning to find its way to more common vehicles including the Ford Fusion.
More advanced forward collision avoidance systems may also prepare the car for an accident. This could include closing windows, adjusting seat belts and positioning back and headrests to minimize injuries. Mercedes-Benz has shown much leadership in this category.
If these systems are not factory fitted, then you can add them as a modification to your car. To avoid paying increased premiums for modifications, read more about specialised modified car insurance.
Changing Lanes and Blind Spots
As car design advances, accidents involving blind spots have increased. This is mainly due to lighter materials being used in manufacturing which require larger pillars for support. Pillars, unfortunately, obstruct a driver’s view and are one of the main causes of blind spot accidents.
Blind spot detectors use sensors to monitor the parts of the car that the driver is unable to see and warn of any vehicles, pedestrians or other obstacles that are in the way. They greatly reduce the risk of accidents while maneuvering or passing another vehicle.
Another driver risk, especially on long regional journeys, is colliding with something after inadvertently moving into another lane. Lane departure warning and prevention systems prevent this. They track your position in your lane and alert you if you are straying out of it. Some systems may also lightly apply the brakes or gently steer you back into the lane if you start to stray.
Preventing Driver Fatigue
In a perfect world, you wouldn’t drive when you are feeling tired, but we have all done it. Whether it’s that commute home from work after a particularly bad day or taxiing your teen kids home from a party, there are plenty of reasons why you may need to drive when you are less than 100 percent alert.
Driver fatigue may be responsible for up to 20 percent of road accidents (source: ROSPA). Fatigue warning systems monitor driver and vehicle performance and provide a warning to the driver if they seem impaired. These systems monitor things like driver action, such as eye or facial movements, the car’s position within its lane and the amount of steering wheel movement. More detailed information about these systems can be found on the EC Mobility and Transport website.
Maintaining Vehicle Control
Many single-vehicle accidents are caused by drivers losing control of their car on sharp turns or during tricky maneuvers. Electronic stability control systems vastly reduce the chances of these kinds of accidents occurring.
Combining sensors and a microcomputer, electronic stability control systems apply the breaks and moderate engine power to ensure that the car stays safely on the road. This prevents skidding and reduces the possibility of rolling the vehicle. Full details, of how these systems work, can be found on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website.
Improve Your Driving Skills
Although all these advanced technologies are great, there’s still no substitute for driver skill. If you think your skills are lacking, or you’ve got into some bad habits recently, consider brushing up your skills with an advanced driver course. More details can be found on the Institute of Advanced Motorists website.
Photo credits: Susan Pinna (#1 and #2) and Dreamstime (#3).