Crash-avoidance systems may soon come standard in new cars

Federal safety officials say newly developed crash-avoidance technologies could prevent more than half a million car accidents each year in the United States, saving an estimated 1,000 lives annually. Representatives of the Obama administration say they are working on a proposal that would require these systems to be installed in all new cars in the coming years.In the past, crash safety technology in cars has focused primarily on helping vehicle occupants to survive a crash and minimizing their injuries. Although developments such as seat belts, air bags and vehicle crumple zones have helped tremendously in this regard, they do nothing to actually prevent traffic collisions from occurring in the first place – which is arguably the best way to minimize crash-related injuries and deaths.The systems currently under consideration by the Obama administration would do just that by allowing vehicles to communicate with one another about their locations and movements. This could help prevent two of the most common crash types: intersection crashes and left-turn accidents.

Using technology to avoid common crash scenarios

According to a report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, more than one-fourth of all fatal car accidents involve a side-impact crash. Also known as T-bone accidents, collisions of this type often occur when two vehicles enter an intersection at the same time. One of the new technologies uses wireless signals to monitor the movements near intersections as a vehicle approaches, and warns drivers of approaching traffic and other hazards.

The second type of anti-crash system would use similar technology to alert drivers to oncoming vehicles in order to prevent left-turn accidents. Many serious traffic accidents occur when one driver turns left into the path of an oncoming vehicle, often due to misjudging the other vehicle’s speed or distance – or failing to see it at all. Left-turn crashes are especially common in collisions between cars and motorcycles. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that more than one-third of all motorcycle fatalities involve another vehicle turning left into the motorcycle’s path.

It remains to be seen whether the federal government will move forward with mandating the technology for new vehicles. If it does, the crash-avoidance systems would most likely be mandatory for all newly manufactured cars and small trucks. The estimated additional cost per vehicle would be $329, although the NHTSA says that cost would likely decrease over time as the technology becomes more mainstream.

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