Research shows safety features prevent car accidents

Technology that can reduce or eliminate vehicle collisions includes forward crash and lane departure prevention and curve-adaptive headlights.

Drivers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, may be interested to know that the U.S. Department of Transportation's newest statistics are now available. The good news? The report indicates a slight decline in motor vehicle crash fatalities between 2013 and 2014. This is part of a trend that began in 2005, and it could be the result of the increasing number of safety technologies automakers are including in their vehicles.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety warns that all the safety features in the world are not going to make a difference unless drivers understand what their vehicles are equipped to do. However, their research indicates that these three systems have been proven effective.

Forward collision prevention

Many vehicles include sensors that gather data about their surroundings and tie those to warnings or automatic responses. One of these systems warns drivers that they are in danger of rear-ending the vehicle in front of them. Vehicles that included driver alerts have reduced collisions, but those that braked without waiting for the driver were even more successful. Even when the situation still ended in a car accident, the lower speed reduced the property and physical damages significantly.

Curve-adaptive headlights

Researchers were surprised to discover that people who had curve-adaptive headlight systems were much less likely to be in crashes. When the steering wheel is turned, the lights swivel, as well, which allows drivers to have a better view when going around corners. Another headlight feature that improves night vision is high-intensity discharge bulbs.

Lane departure warnings

An IIHS analysis of data indicates systems that keep a vehicle from drifting out of its own lane of traffic could prevent some of the deadliest accidents. This technology relies on sensors to identify the lane and the correct position within it. The driver receives an alert if the system perceives that the vehicle is moving into another lane or leaving the roadway mistakenly.

The efficacy of any alert system is dependent on the driver's ability to interpret the warning and respond correctly. According to a national survey conducted by the University of Iowa researchers, many drivers who have safety features in their vehicles do not understand them. Not only that, only about one-third of the drivers who did not understand the alert or response investigated it further, and most of those used Internet searches rather than reading their vehicle manuals.

It appears that as auto manufacturers make adjustments and additions to the technology in the vehicles they offer, the number of crashes will decline. No system that relies on a human driver can fully mitigate error, though. When a person is injured or killed in a crash, an attorney may be able to provide representation that holds the responsible parties liable for the damages.