For the longest time, I used to look at blind-spot monitoring systems and say, "I don't need that, my eyes work just fine." But new research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that these systems are saving us from a whole lot of trouble.
Both blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning systems have measurable effects on the number of collisions across the country, the IIHS said on Wednesday. The nonprofit organization conducted one study for each system, and the results are the same: fewer people hit each other when these systems are involved.
Blind-spot monitoring alerts drivers when a vehicle is in a car's blind spot by illuminating a light built somewhere into the side mirror. Lane-departure systems warn the driver when a vehicle begins to stray from its lane, while lane-keeping assist attempts to prevent an unwanted lane change by nudging a vehicle back into its lane. The latter two sound pretty similar, but have entirely different functions -- warnings versus active help.
The lane-departure warning study inspected police collision data from 25 states over six years, specifically zeroing in on vehicles where the system is either optional or standard. This study showed that lane-departure warning systems reduced the rate of sideswipe, head-on and single-vehicle collisions by 11 percent. When injuries were involved in those types of crashes, it reduced collisions by 21 percent.
It also reduced the crash rate involving fatalities by 86 percent, but a small sample size of just 40 fatal crashes in the data set meant researchers used a different analysis method that didn't control for factors like gender, age or insurance risk.
The second study, which looked at blind-spot monitoring, used the same analysis methods are the first study. Here, the IIHS found that cars with blind-spot monitoring reduced lane-change-related crashes by 14 percent, jumping up to 23 percent when injuries were involved.
The IIHS believes that if all cars in the US were equipped with both technologies, the country could avoid some 50,000 police-reported crashes each year. So the next time you want to make a wisecrack about how your eyes work fine, consider letting the vehicle take some of the strain off your peepers.
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