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Auto Safety Features and Avoidance Techniques

Crash avoidance technologies

The best way to reduce crash injuries is to keep from crashing in the first place.

Many new vehicles offer advanced crash avoidance features. The systems started out as options on a few luxury models and have steadily spread to more of the fleet. Advanced technologies assist the driver with warnings or automatic braking to help avoid or mitigate a crash. These include front crash prevention, lane departure warning, blind spot detection, adaptive headlights and park assist and backover prevention. Advances also are being made in intelligent transportation systems that allow vehicles to communicate with one another or with road infrastructure to help avoid crashes.

Front crash prevention and adaptive headlights are reducing insurance claims. HLDI found fewer claims under property damage liability coverage, which pays for damage to vehicles that an at-fault driver hits, for models with forward collision warning with automatic braking than for the same vehicles that weren’t equipped with the technology. Adaptive headlights also are reducing property damage liability claims. So far, HLDI hasn’t been able to quantify the real-world effects of other advanced crash avoidance systems.

Electronic stability control is an older — and proven — crash avoidance feature. Standard on 2012 and later models, ESC is an extension of antilock brake technology that helps drivers maintain control of their vehicles on curves and slippery roads. ESC lowers the risk of a fatal single-vehicle crash by about half and the risk of a fatal rollover by as much as 80 percent.

Crash testing and crashworthiness

A good structure, safety belts and airbags can reduce crash injuries.

A crashworthy design reduces death and injury risk. Structure and restraints (safety belts and airbags) are the main aspects of a vehicle’s design that determine its crashworthiness. Good structure means a strong occupant compartment or safety cage, crumple zones to absorb the force of a serious crash, side structure that can manage the force of a striking vehicle or struck object and a strong roof so it doesn’t collapse in a rollover.

Crash tests are used to evaluate a vehicle’s structural design and restraints. IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in high-speed front and side crash tests, a roof strength test for rollover protection, plus evaluations of seats/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts. The federal government's New Car Assessment Program also evaluates new vehicles for protection in front, side and rollover crashes.

Passenger vehicles are safer than ever. Nearly all new cars, minivans, pickup trucks and SUVs earn good or acceptable ratings in front and side crash tests. Many also perform well when it comes to protecting people in rollovers and rear crashes, but some models still need improvement. IIHS in 2012 introduced a challenging small overlap frontal crash test to encourage automakers to continue to improve protection in frontal crashes.


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