Defense counsel on auto liability panels for automotive insurance carriers may already be noticing the favorable impact of recent car safety advances.
New automotive safety features—such as lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking, and sensors that alert drivers to surrounding threats—are helping motorists avoid collisions that might otherwise have occurred.
U.S. roadway deaths have decreased for the second consecutive year, according to data released in October by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”). Improvements in safety technologies implemented by automakers are a primary factor in the reduced rates of motor vehicle accidents.
Roadway safety statistics are not favorable across all categories, however. Pedestrian deaths increased by 3.4 percent, while the number of cyclists killed increased by 6.3 percent.
Improved Automobile Safety Features
Automakers have recently made a pledge to equip all new vehicles with automated braking systems by the year 2022. The NHTSA has mentioned the possibility of changing the crash safety rating system, and automakers safety ratings may suffer if they do not continue to outfit their new vehicles with the most effective safety features available.
State Farm recommends that insureds consider crash avoidance technologies such as the following:
- Forward collision warning. These systems trigger an audible warning to alert drivers when they are coming up too close to a vehicle in front of them.
- Adaptive headlights. New headlight technology allows the lights on a car to focus intensity toward the direction in which the car is traveling. This can be particularly helpful when navigating curves.
- Autonomous braking. Warning signals communicate potential danger to the driver, and may include an automatic application to the brakes.
- Blind spot detection. Sensors are used to warn drivers of vehicles and other objects in their blind spots.
GEICO, another major auto insurer and a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., also suggests that their insureds consider the use of “rear cross-traffic warning” systems. This technology can supplement a car’s backup camera by monitoring an area for objects or movement that might be just out of sight-range.
Alcohol and Speeding Fatalities Decline
There was also a 3.6 percent decline in alcohol related fatalities. It is unclear whether this resulted from less intoxicated drivers on the road, or if the improved safety features also played a role. Speeding related deaths decreased by 5.7 percent according to the NHTSA data.
Distraction was a factor in 7.8 percent of fatalities, but the NHTSA acknowledges that it still faces difficulty in capturing the impact of distraction in its data.
The number of motorcyclists killed in crashes decreased by 4.7 percent. Another positive trend was a 10.3 percent reduction in the deaths of children aged 14 and younger.
Concern for Pedestrians and Cyclists
While there are improvements in overall safety, the data suggests that safety technologies are still falling short when it comes to protecting people outside of the vehicle.
Though the exact causes of the uptick are unclear, an NHTSA official said that pedestrians drinking alcohol and crossing roadways outside of intersection crosswalks are contributing factors to some fatalities.
Of pedestrians killed in 2018, 76 percent of the accidents causing the fatalities occurred after dark. As a result, Mr. Owners stated that the NHTSA’s researchers will focus on night-time performance when assessing pedestrian-sensing automated braking systems. Despite this, federal officials warned that there would not be one single solution to slow the increase in pedestrian deaths.
The NHTSA is considering new technologies tied to the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists. Additionally, The Federal Highway Administration (“FHA’) is working to reduce fatalities with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Program, which aims to promote safe, comfortable, and convenient walking and bicycling for people of all ages and abilities.
Impact of Car Safety Features on Auto Liability Panels
Defense counsel on auto liability panels—whether State Farm, Allstate, Progressive, GEICO, or others—can view car safety features in at least two ways:
- An opportunity to stay current on emerging technologies and proactively offer insurers news and education that might help in claim resolution or crash avoidance training; and
- Content marketing topics for a blog, LinkedIn post, newsletter article, or continuing education seminar.
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This article is provided for educational purposes only. It is not to be interpreted as legal advice or an opinion in regard to any topic discussed. The article should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Every situation is different and circumstances vary widely depending on the governing state law, policy provisions, and related considerations.