Should your next car have a crash prevention system?
With distracted driving on the rise, consumers are demanding more advanced safety systems that can help prevent accidents before they happen. New technology can minimize the impact of blind spots, alert drivers when they veer out of a lane and even apply the brakes when an accident is imminent. These types of active features that not only detect but react to obstacles are known collectively as crash prevention (or crash avoidance) systems.
What do crash prevention systems do?
Features typically included in crash prevention systems include forward collision warning, auto-braking, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, blind spot detection, and adaptive headlights. We’ll explore each of these features individually.
Forward collision warning and auto-braking
Forward collision warning systems use cameras, laser beams and/or radar to scan the road ahead and alert the driver to any objects in the road ahead. If the system detects an object that the driver does not appear to be reacting to it takes action. Some systems will sound an alert and prepare the brakes for full stopping power; others will apply the brakes automatically to prevent a crash.
Lane departure warning and prevention
Lane departure warning systems use cameras to detect the lane markings on the road. If the driver moves outside of the marked lanes without using the turn signal, an alert appears. Typically this is a visual alert combined with an audible tone or vibration. Lane departure prevention takes this one step further by gently steering the vehicle back into its lane. The driver can bypass this system at any point by turning the steering wheel.
Blind spot detection
Active blind spot detection systems, or blind spot monitoring systems, track vehicles as they approach the driver’s blind spot. A visual alert is shown when another vehicle is currently occupying the blind spot. If the driver switches the turn signal to move into the occupied area, an audible tone or vibration is triggered. Blind spot intervention systems take this a step further by preventing the driver from moving into the space occupied by another vehicle.
Unlike standard headlights which always point straight ahead, adaptive headlights react to speed and direction to move the beams up to 15 degrees in either direction. This can be helpful when driving around a corner at night, allowing the driver to see objects in the road ahead that would be invisible with standard beams. Some vehicles combine these with cornering lights that can provide up to 80 degrees of additional side view when the car is moving slower than 25 mph (such as in a parking lot).
Do crash prevention systems actually work?
According the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) they do. Scroll through their annual list of Top Safety Picks and you’ll see this phrase repeatedly: “applies only to optional front crash prevention models.” A recent study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) found that Acura and Mercedes-Benz vehicles with forward collision warning and active braking had 14% fewer insurance claims filed for property damage compared to the same models without the technology. Adaptive headlights have also been shown by the HLDI to reduce property damage claims by 10% compared to the same vehicle with standard headlights.
An IIHS survey of owners of vehicles with crash prevention technology found that the majority felt the system made them safer drivers and would want their next vehicle to have the same features. Depending on the vehicle, 20% to 50% of owners reported that the system had helped them to avoid a crash.
Which vehicles have effective crash prevention systems?
The IIHS tested auto-braking systems at 12 and 25 mph and rated the systems as Basic, Advanced or Superior.
Superior rated vehicles
Superior rated vehicles substantially reduced speed in both tests. Most were able to prevent a crash at 12 mph, but only the Subaru Legacy and Outback were able to entirely avoid a collision in both tests. Superior ratings went to:
- Subaru Legacy (equipped with EyeSight)
- Subaru Outback (equipped with EyeSight)
- Cadillac ATS (equipped with Forward Collision Alert and Automatic Collision Preparation)
- Cadillac SRX (equipped with Forward Collision Alert and Automatic Collision Preparation)
- Mercedes-Benz C-Class (equipped with Distronic Plus and Pre-Safe Brake)
- Volvo S60 (equipped with City Safety/Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection)
- Volvo XC60 (equipped with City Safety/Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection)
Advanced rated vehicles
To qualify for an Advanced rating the system needed to avoid a crash or reduce impact speed by at least 5 mph at either 12 or 25 mph. Advanced ratings went to:
- Acura MDX (equipped with Forward Collision Warning/Collision Mitigation Brake System)
- Audi A4 (equipped with Audi pre sense front)
- Audi Q5 (equipped with Audi pre sense front)
- Jeep Grand Cherokee (equipped with Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation)
- Lexus ES (equipped with Pre-Collision System)
- Mazda Mazda6 (equipped with Smart City Brake Support)
- Volvo S60 (equipped with City Safety only)
- Volvo XC60 (equipped with City Safety only)
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