Many new vehicles now have systems designed to prevent a vehicle from entering other adjacent lanes and detect when a vehicle is traveling in a driver's “blind spot”. These systems have largely proven to be effective; however, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) explained that it is possible that drivers are becoming overly reliant on such systems and are potentially experiencing distraction from all the activity.
Many of the lane safety products add assistance in steering the vehicle back to within its lane. A recent study involving 25 states indicated that rates were reduced for single vehicle accidents, sideswipe occurrences, and “head-on” collisions by approximately 11%.
Massive Potential for Accident Prevention
Jessica Cicchino, the IIHS' VP of Research, explained that roughly 25% of accident fatalities are caused by a vehicle entering an adjacent lane. Because of this frequency of occurrence, if these systems could reduce accidents by 50%, that would demonstrate a very significant volume.
For example, in 2015 the reduction in accidents would have exceeded 80,000. A similar study was conducted on blind-spot detectors showing that lane changing accidents were reduced by about 14%. Greg Brannon, the Director of Automotive Engineering at the Automobile Association of America, is encouraged by the findings; however, he stressed the importance of recognizing that these systems do have some limitations.
Many of those with vehicles that have blind-spot monitoring systems told analysts that they often make lane changes relying solely on the system. This illustrates that although these safety systems are capable of greatly reducing collisions; some drivers, particularly those well accustomed to having them installed, may begin taking risky actions that they otherwise would not.
The audible and visual alerts from the system have proven to be irritating to many drivers; one study showed that almost half of drivers turn off their lane warning detector. In response to this, many system alerts now use a more subtle vibration. These often constant alerts have many drivers feeling that they increasingly distracted. This is concerning especially in light of the large amount of public awareness and new legislation geared toward the “epidemic” of distracted driving in the U.S.
The Volume of Distractions
The primary focus of most recent distracted driving legislation has been aimed at eliminating the usage of mobile devices; however, as manufacturers continue to add new systems and technology it can get distracting. The following alerts could be generated, particularly if the vehicle is traveling in moderate to heavy traffic:
- The blind-spot monitoring system using an audible signal and a flashing signal on the side view mirror
- Systems for detecting cross-traffic use radar which also triggers audible and visual signals
- The lane departure system creates a small signal the driver can feel in the steering wheel and visual indicators
- The dashboard monitor is displaying status, alerts etc.
- A monitor on the dash for the GPS system is also likely active