Joe Stergios, with Enterprise Fleet Management, explained that for the first time in many years the “driver and passenger safety metrics are headed in the wrong direction, even as vehicle safety equipment improves.” The tremendous wave of new vehicle safety features seems largely off-set by the problem of distracted driving and the increase in speed limits.
Data from the National Safety Council shows traffic fatalities increased in both 2015 and 2016. In 2017, the total number of estimated fatalities was 40,100. Usage of mobile devices and other in-car electronics by drivers seems to also be a cause for the surge in pedestrian-related accidents. Many employees consider their vehicles as their “mobile office” and are multitasking while they should be solely focused on driving.
New Vehicle Technology
Many of the advanced crash prevention features include advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). These will provide warnings when a vehicle drifts out of their lane of travel, is approaching a potential collision, or when another vehicle enters a driver's “blind spot.”
Dr. David Yang, of AAA's Foundation of Traffic Safety, believes that these innovations may reduce crashes by 40% and reduce fatalities by roughly 30%. One example of a problem is that approximately 80% of motorists with blind-spot detection systems do not understand the capabilities and limits of the system.
A University of Iowa study polled those who had purchased 2016 and 2017 model vehicles with ADAS features about their knowledge of these safety systems. Some of their key findings included:
- Roughly 40% of respondents were unable to differentiate the forward-collision warning system from the automatic vehicle braking system. Many felt that the forward-collision warning system would engage the brakes to prevent a collision; however, it only provides a warning signal.
- Many people incorrectly believed the blind-spot monitoring system was capable of monitoring the rear area of the vehicle.
- Approximately 17% of drivers were unaware that their vehicle had automatic braking capabilities.
- Nearly 25% of drivers were willing to rely solely on the blind-spot detection system and no longer visually checked over their shoulders when making a lane change.
- About 25% of respondents are content to perform other tasks as they drive.
Lack of Education
Approximately 90% of those offered ADAS technology training from the dealership when they bought the car completed the training. The problem is that only 50% of these buyers were offered such training. Drivers who fail to understand these safety features are susceptible to using them improperly. It is critical that buyers of new (or used) ADAS-equipped vehicles be educated on the technology.
While many ADAS systems are focused on monitoring the vehicle's external environment, “heads-up” displays (HUDs) are designed to keep the driver's eyes on the road ahead. These systems project data such as GPS directions, roadway conditions, and speed on the front windshield. The image is transparent enough so drivers can still see the road through the display. They seem to be an effective means of reducing the amount of time that a driver may potentially take their eyes off of the road.
Vehicle-to-Vehicle Technology (V-2-V)
Today's vehicles have internal capabilities of monitoring the many systems in the vehicle during operation. V-2-V technology seeks to allow communication between vehicles that are in proximity to one another. This can be used to provide warnings of upcoming problems and prevent cars from colliding with one another. These systems have not progressed as rapidly as other safety technology, largely due to a lack of established uniformity or standards in the means in which the data is communicated among manufacturers and developers.