Monday, July 23, 2012

Cars with safety aids are involved in more accidents.

Regular readers of my site and/or blog will know I have particular place in Hell reserved for pointless in-car gadgets like auto-lights, auto-wipers, auto-park, lane-departure warnings, blind-spot warnings etc. The list of these things goes on and on and I've long argued that when you fill cars with this stuff, it lulls the drivers into a false sense of security. The end result shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone then : cars fitted with lane-departure warning systems are involved in more accidents than those without. Cold. Hard. Facts.
The Highway Loss Data Institute (a division of the Institute for Highway Safety) discovered that lane departure indicators are doing more harm than good. They don't go into a lot of detail about why lane departure warning signals correlate with more wrecks, but the numbers speak for themselves.
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. Other manufacturers were scattered between the two with only one manufacturer - Volvo - bucking the trend.
The study results stand in stark contrast to researchers' initial predictions about how well these new safety gadgets would work. In 2008 the IIHS admitted that most of these things only partially work but at the same time boldly claimed that lane departure systems would prevent 10,345 fatal accidents per year (article). 4 years on, not so much.
Consider for a moment the arguments being floated in Europe right now for AEB - automated emergency braking. The exact same claims are being made right now for making AEB mandatory on all cars from 2014.
The HLDI won't speculate as to why the facts are the way they are, but it would seem pretty obvious. When you put crap like this in cars, it leads drivers to start to rely on it, so instead of actually paying attention when driving, they rely on the car to tell them when they're leaving the travel lane. In the same way that cars with blindspot warning devices are involved in more rear-end collisions (2008 report mentioned above) because people now believe they don't have to use their mirrors or look over their shoulders any more.
If governments want safer roads, they need to mandate getting rid of all this crap in cars and concentrate on driver training, testing and re-testing. If we continue the march towards more and more driver "aids", and ultimately auto-drive cars, the accident rates will only continue to march upwards as we dumb down the responsibility for driving.
(pic from Jalopnik)

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