Will advanced in-car features really keep North Carolina drivers safer?

Will advanced in-car features really keep North Carolina drivers safer?

This year, many vehicles are debuting new, advanced safety features that can help drivers in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, avoid accidents by monitoring lane departures, matching velocity to the vehicle immediately ahead, and more. These technologies are intended to reduce both minor accidents and catastrophic injuries, but no matter how effective they are, they may not achieve the desired effect. Past evidence has shown that drivers tend to offset new safety features by taking dangerous risks elsewhere.

Risk compensation and driving

The theory of risk compensation holds that people adjust their behavior depending on the level of risk they perceive - they act cautiously if they feel they are at high risk, and make more dangerous decisions when they feel protected. This has clear implications for driving, and it is not exactly a new concern.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety found that, when anti-lock brakes became standard on many vehicles, crash and accident statistics did not change as expected. The occurrence of certain kinds of crashes decreased, but the incidence of fatal off-road crashes went up 28 percent, and the number of non-fatal off-road crashes increased by 19 percent. Risk compensation was one factor that was suggested to contribute to the trend.

A University of Purdue study, which was conducted over a five-year period when airbags and anti-lock brakes became common on vehicles, reported similar findings. In real life, new safety features did not necessarily lower the risk of accidents. Drivers felt safer, so they drove more aggressively and essentially offset the benefits of the new technology.

These studies and their findings are certainly not new, but they are instructive to remember. It is important for drivers to fight the tendency to offset protection with more risky behavior, especially as vehicle safety technology becomes more impressive.

New vehicle safety technology

Many automakers are starting to offer advanced safety and technology features standard on many of their vehicles. The National Traffic Safety Board lists some of the advanced technology now available:

  • Lane departure warning
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Automatic braking
  • Forward collision warning
  • Electronic stability control

The NTSB reports that many of these features have been shown to reduce the risk of off-road crashes, rear-end collisions and accidents that occur during lane changes. These accidents collectively account for more than 50 percent of total highway accidents, so this technology has a huge potential to reduce damage, injuries and even deaths.

However, when drivers alter their habits - for instance, by driving faster, drinking and driving, or engaging in distracted driving behaviors - these safety gains can be cancelled out. It's important for drivers to remain vigilant , and not trust that safety systems can prevent virtually any accident from occurring.

Unfortunately, vehicle safety technology can only go so far toward preventing accidents. If you or a loved one has been harmed as the result of someone else's careless or dangerous driving, you should speak with a lawyer about receiving compensation for your injuries.

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