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Directions in Highway Safety, Summer 2008 Cover Page Download Newsletter pdf
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Summer 2008 | Vol. 10 | No. 4

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Benefits of New Vehicle Safety Features Are Difficult to Predict

Car manufacturers are developing new safety devices designed to prevent vehicle crashes. The features being installed in some current luxury vehicles provide the driver with information, putting the onus on the driver to respond appropriately to prevent a crash. While these new features do hold some promise for reducing the instance of some fatal crashes, a new report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) concludes that it may be too early to predict their long-term value.

IIHS Cover

The IIHS report analyzes the kinds of crashes that five emerging technologies are intended to prevent. Because there is too little data to determine the number of lives saved or crashes avoided, researchers instead counted the number of crashes that occurred from 2002- 2006, assigning relevant ones to the technologies designed to prevent them. Thus, as IIHS president Adrian Lund notes, "The counts of relevant crashes and crash deaths indicate a new feature's maximum promise, not its expected benefit."

The five new safety devices studies are:

Researchers found some features show more promise to prevent fatal crashes than others. Forward collision warning and lane departure warning have the most potential. Blind spot detection, on the other hand, shows less promise to reduce deaths because there are fewer fatalities associated with this type of crash.

In an absolute "best case scenario," IIHS found that if all five features existed on all vehicles from 2002-2006 and were 100 percent effective, they could have potentially prevented the 20,777 fatalities that occurred as a result of the 3,435,000 relevant crashes during that time period.

However, the key to the success of any crash avoidance feature is driver response. Until there is more widespread use of these new technologies, researches cannot predict to what degree driver behavior with diminish the intended results. Drivers may ignore the warnings, turn them off or drive more carelessly, relying too much on the devices.

Download the IIHS report at