Despite that fact that automakers have announced recalls of a record 54 million vehicles this year, today’s autos are actually safer than ever, and automobile-related fatalities are down 40 percent compared to the 1970s, when the number of Americans killed in traffic accidents reached its peak.
Today’s new vehicles provide greater protection in the event of a collision, and new crash avoidance technologies reduce the likelihood of being involved in an accident in the first place. In fact, auto safety has reached the level that Volvo and Nissan have both predicted that no fatalities will occur in their next generation vehicles which are scheduled to hit the U.S. market in the early part of the next decade.
That’s a bold prediction, but not a baseless one. A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) will reportedly show that a number of autos have had no fatalities on U.S. roadways during the past three years. IIHS Executive VP Russ Rader credits new safety technologies including electronic stability control for recent declines in vehicular deaths.
The technology, which prevents vehicles from skidding while being driven on slick surfaces, was introduced just over ten years ago. Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires that all new vehicles sold in the U.S. have the technology. The NHTSA is also considering making backup cameras standard on all new vehicles in the near future, and other “active safety systems” are also being studied by the agency.
Automakers have taken the lead when it comes to developing new safety technologies, and in many cases are bringing new safety features to market before they are required by lawmakers and regulators. All new Honda vehicles, including entry-level models, come with back up cameras as part of their safety features.
Luxury automakers are introducing forward thinking safety features on their top-of-the-line models, and gradually making them available fleet-wide. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class features a “Magic” vision system which uses infrared night vision technology to help drivers identify obstacles when driving at night. The S-Class is also equipped with a collision avoidance system that automatically applies the brakes when it senses a potential hazard in the roadway.
Both of these systems will be available on the automakers lower priced C-Class model for 2015, and other automakers are following suit as they move toward the industry-wide goal of autonomous drive vehicles.
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