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Could driverless tech be cutting the rate of car accidents?

Kwik Fit | Wednesday 21st February 2018 11:42am

birdseye view of car with proximity sensors

From overtaking sensors to collision warning systems, the cars we now drive feature an ever increasing range of automated safety systems. These hi-tech solutions no doubt make driving easier and less stressful, and they may be helping to make our roads safer too. 

New figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveal that the number of cars available with driver assistance systems is rising dramatically, while at the same time accident rates are dropping.

Millions more drivers benefiting from collision avoidance tech

The organisation noted that nearly seven in 10 new vehicles are now available with driver assistance systems, either as standard or as an optional extra feature. In addition, approximately 1.8 million car buyers a year are benefiting from some form of collision avoidance technology. This figure was 20 per cent higher in 2017 than during the previous year. The most popular solutions include parking assistance, blind spot sensors and autonomous emergency braking.

car with parking sensors

More than half of new cars are now available with autonomous energy braking systems that automatically apply the brakes to avoid impacts or lessen their effects. Not far behind, overtaking sensors are available on 42 percent of vehicles, while adaptive cruise control (which enables cars to increase or decrease their speed automatically to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front) is available in 36 per cent of new cars. 

New technology thatís set to hit showrooms in 2018 includes systems that can take over the task of driving in traffic queues, pre-collision warning systems that detect vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, and key fob or smartphone-controlled parking. 

At the same time as weíre fitting increasingly sophisticated driver assistance solutions in cars, the number of accidents appears to be going down. Figures cited by the SMMT suggest that road accident rates have dropped by 10 per cent over the last five years.

Further reductions in accident rates predicted

According to the SMMT, innovations in vehicle technology will mean that accident rates continue to decline. A report compiled by the organisation and KPMG suggested that self-driving and connected vehicle technology could cut the number of serious accidents by 25,000 by the year 2030, potentially saving around 2,500 lives.

Safety is the Ďnumber one priorityí for manufacturers

Responding to the latest findings, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes stated that safety is ďthe number one priorityĒ for car manufacturers. He added that while fully autonomous cars may be some way off, millions of people are already benefiting from new technology that can ďonly help make our roads saferĒ.

What steps can you take to make your journeys safer?

Although driver assistance systems may be reducing risks on the road, itís still essential to take safety seriously when youíre behind the wheel. To help you avoid accidents, itís worth bearing the following safety tips in mind.

Vehicle checks

Checking your car regularly for signs of damage or wear and tear can lower your risk of experiencing an accident on the highways. For example, it pays to keep a close eye on your tyres. Check them over for cracks, bulges and other signs of damage, and take a close look at their tread. The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm, but many safety experts recommend having at least 3mm. If the tread on your tyres has worn down too much, or you spot other defects, itís time to replace them for new models. 

Make sure you keep your tyres inflated to the correct pressure too. This is important for handling and it can reduce the risk of blowouts. 

Always keep your screen wash levels topped up as well, and itís advisable to replace your windscreen wipers every year to prevent smearing that can obstruct your view of the road. Pay attention to your lights too, including your brake, fog and reversing lights, as well as your indicators. If any bulbs blow, ensure that you replace them as quickly as possible.

Driving tips

There are also lots of things you can do while youíre driving to reduce your risk of accidents. For instance, donít be tempted to use a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel. As well as being illegal, this can be extremely distracting and therefore dangerous. 

Another safety tip is to ensure you never drive while tired. Highlighting the dangers of getting behind the wheel when youíre drowsy, research commissioned by the Department for Transport found that one in six crashes that result in death and injury on motorways and A roads are related to fatigue. If you find yourself becoming sleepy when youíre on the road, take a break as soon as you can. You should also plan regular breaks for long journeys, ideally stopping at least once every couple of hours for 15 minutes or more. 

Donít be tempted to drive too fast. You might be surprised to learn that if you hit a pedestrian while youíre travelling at 35mph, youíre twice as likely to kill them as you are if youíre travelling at 30mph. 

Always leave a gap of two seconds or more between you and the vehicle in front too as this will help you to ensure you have enough time to react in an emergency. Use your mirrors regularly as well, and make an effort to know whatís happening around you on the road at all times. 

You should always wear your seatbelt, even for the shortest of journeys, and ensure that any passengers do likewise. In a collision, a rear passenger who isnít wearing a seatbelt can seriously injure anyone sitting in front of them in the car.

Thereís always some level of danger associated with driving, but improving technology is helping to bring the level of risk down - and by bearing car safety tips like the ones mentioned here in mind, you can lower your chances of being involved in an accident even further.

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