How Standard Automatic Car Safety Features Could Save Lives

Cars have drastically changed since their introduction at the turn of the century. Now, they can help drivers avoid accidents and injuries, seeing imminent collisions before the driver does – and in some cases slamming the breaks on to prevent them before the driver even realizes the need to. But these proven safety features aren’t available in every car and are often sold only as add-ons, an oft-criticized situation.

Two major features exist that improve safety: Automatic emergency braking systems and forward collision warning systems. Both help keep cars from crashing, but work in different ways. Both are typically sold as premium features, and not standard ones, even though experts consider them a crucial part of a vehicle’s safety system.

Automatic Safety

AEB systems help to detect an impending forward crash with a vehicle in time to avoid or allay the crash. Should a driver’s response be insufficient in avoiding the crash, the AEB will apply the brakes automatically and reduce the force of the collision.

Forward collision warning systems, also known as pre-crash systems, help to detect an imminent crash by using all-weather radar and sometimes lasers and cameras. These equipments scan the road ahead and alert the driver if their vehicle is closing in too quickly to an object, such as a pedestrian, cyclist, or vehicle in front of them. In case of a crash, a warning in the form of audible, haptic (vibration), or visual cue goes off.

While these safety features have been available on luxury cars for years, they have slowly trickled down to mainstream vehicles — but as expensive add-on packages. The estimated cost for a frontal-collision warning system sits between $250 to $400, according to Consumer Reports. But some, like Safe Drive Systems’ Premier System, retails for $1,100. Its Premier Plus feature adds lane-departure warning and costs roughly $1,700.

Because of the high price tags, buyers could be discouraged from gaining access to these crucial safety features. In some cases, a salesperson could steer a potential buyer away from the add-ons in order to close a sale, or perhaps a buyer might just decide they can’t spare the expense.

It’s a scenario that shouldn’t have to happen, according to critics who are that these features should be standard features in all cars.

“Forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking is the biggest safety advancement since the introduction of stability control over two decades ago,” Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports, said in the publication.

A Future for Standard Automatic Safety Features?

National Highway Traffic Safety Association and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are jumping on the safety bandwagon after brokering an industry-wide agreement earlier this year to make automatic emergency braking a standard feature. The downside is the deal calls for major automakers to equip nearly all new light-duty vehicles with automatic braking and forward collision warning by 2022.

Rear-end collisions claim roughly 1,700 lives per year, with 500,000 individuals sustaining injuries, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. These safety features could prevent or mitigate what the IIHS estimates to be nearly 2 million crashes per year. Another IIHS study shows that automatic emergency braking can cut rear-end crashes by 40 percent, thus preventing individuals from incurring injuries such as paralysis, amputation, severe brain damage, and death. Yet, less than 10 percent of vehicles today offer AEB as a standard feature.

“This is such an important safety feature that all other manufacturers should bring it to their vehicles as soon as possible,” Fisher said.

Ten major vehicle manufacturers have already vowed to make AEB a standard feature on all new vehicles as part of the deal, including Ford, General Motors, and Toyota, according to the NHTSA and IIHS,

With AEB and FCW features revolutionizing the way motorists behave on the road, organizations such as the IIHS are committed to promoting what the NHTSA calls “a life-saving technology,” and with an eye making it available to the masses.

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