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Government and Manufacturers Working on Vehicle Safety

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and other agency officials recently examined a number of connected vehicle safety technologies, which may decrease the incidence of collisions significantly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates they may affect as many as 80 percent of vehicle crashes not involving impaired drivers.

In particular, accidents which occur while drivers are attempting to switch lanes or navigate intersections might be reduced. The government studied these technologies as part of the four-day Driver Acceptance Clinic in Orlando, part of a larger six-month program in which the NHTSA collaborates with other Department agencies, such as the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).

Safety Progress

Past efforts to improve safety have resulted in the development and implementation of safety devices such as seatbelts and anti-lock brakes, as well as assessment and improvement of vehicle structures to promote crash safety.

“Thanks to the efforts of automakers and the safety community traffic fatalities have reached historic lows. Despite these great strides though, more than 32,000 people are still killed on our nation’s roads every year. That’s why we must remain vigilant in our effort to improve safety,” said Secretary LaHood.

New Technologies

Connected vehicle technologies allow automobiles to communicate, serving as warnings when a collision may be imminent. For example, the drivers of two vehicles drifting into dangerous proximity might receive a collision warning, or a driver preparing to switch lanes could choose not to when he becomes aware of a signal not to pass based on his own car’s communications with an approaching vehicle in the passing lane.

Another potential safety message might warn that a vehicle ahead has suddenly come to a stop, so the driver can react sooner and begin braking appropriately. RITA Acting Administrator Greg Winfree noted that while past safety technologies have improved crash survivability, this generation focuses on avoiding collisions in the first place.

Effects on Safety

With their potential for significantly reducing the occurrence of many common types of collisions, these technologies are likely to see implementation as soon as they are sufficiently reliable. At that point, their inclusion in new vehicles may be federally mandated, as has been the case with past innovations. The fact that connected vehicle safety technologies benefit from multiple cars using them may make this even more likely. It is also possible that drivers who choose to use the technologies might find themselves with lower auto insurance rates as a result of the change.