You would think that high tech safety options like automated low speed braking, adaptive headlights, and lane departure indicators would make cars safer to drive.
For the most part they do, but the crunchers of cold, hard numbers at the Highway Loss Data Institute discovered that lane departure indicators are doing more harm than good.
HLDI, a division of the Institute for Highway Safety, doesn't go into a lot of detail about why lane departure warning signals correlate with more wrecks, but the numbers don't speak for themselves. Cars with that particular safety technology logged more crashes than with cars without. No assumptions were made or conclusions reached, just plain ol' statistics.
The exception was Volvo, which paired its lane departure warning system with a forward collision warning/automatic braking system in an XC60. It suffered fewer accidents than its gadgety competitors. But researchers also tested Buick and Mercedes models equipped with lane departure warning technology, and they didn't fare so well.
Lane departure indicator-equipped Buick cars recorded a four percent increase in collision claims and a slightly higher rate of increase for property damage claims. Mercedes brought up the rear with a five percent increase in collision claims and a more than ten percent increase in property damage claims. (The Buick vehicles also had a blind spot detection system, so maybe that helped).
The study results stand in stark contrast to researchers' initial predictions about how well these new safety gadgets would work. HLDI said they had estimated that more than 7,500 fatal crashes could be avoided or made less than lethal if all cars had the lane departure warning indicators. Only, it didn't work out that way.
Other safety innovations worked well, through, according to HLDI's analysis. Adaptive headlights, which react to vehicle speed and turning radius to shine the lights' beam in the actual direction a car is traveling, lowered collision and property damage claims on all cars tested. Forward collision avoidance systems equipped with an alarm, automated braking, or some combination thereof also worked well in preventing front-to-rear collisions.
Although I could have benefitted from the front collision avoidance technology on one (nearly two or three) occasions, I'd still like to know how much more expensive this will make new cars. As personal vehicles become safer and pollute less, they also become more expensive to produce and to buy. Does this mean that we will spend proportionately more on car purchases, or will it make public transportation (where it's available) an attractive option?
Car manufacturers, safety regulators, and researchers will continue to learn more about emerging technologies as the numbers roll in. Once these devices join the ranks of other, older safety equipment — collapsible steering columns, safety belts, airbags, and tire pressure sensors, to name a few — these new gadgets will probably become more affordable when they're produced on a larger scale.
We'll continue to demand none of these in our cars, but it's probably not a bad idea for the for Lindsay Lohans of the world.
Photo credit: Mazda News