The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that nationwide there were 37,461 fatalities in motor vehicle accidents in 2016. The yearly cost associated with auto accidents is now estimated to be in excess of $240 billion. When considering these statistics, it should come as no surprise that there is a strong demand for new vehicle safety technology.
Meanwhile, the automobile industry continues to progress toward autonomous (self-driving) vehicles and many new “smart” technologies have been implemented for safety purposes. Those shopping for a new car will notice many of the new safety features as standard vehicle equipment while others are optionally available for an additional cost. Many of these new features are “crash avoidance” enhancements. Which of these features are really worth the added cost?
Forward Collision Prevention & Automatic Braking
This feature, known as Predictive Forward Collision Warning by Infiniti and Forward Collision Alert by Chevrolet, alerts the driver when the vehicle approaches a collision with an object, such as another vehicle. This option is commonly paired with Automatic Emergency Braking, which proactively applies the brakes to prevent the collision. With the prevalence of distracted driving and the potential for these types of accidents, it is very useful and likely worth the added cost. This feature will be standard on most vehicles by 2022.
Blind Spot Monitoring
This technology uses video data or radar to scan the rear corners of the car, often referred to as the “blind spots.” It alerts the driver by a light on the side view mirror or audible interior signal. It is known as the Side Blind Zone Alert by Chevrolet and Side Assist in Audi vehicles. This option may be worthwhile for those with larger vehicles that have some reduced visibility or those who do considerable amounts of highway driving.
If your vehicle drifts outside of the lane it is traveling in, this feature alerts you with a visual or audible signal. It is referred to as LaneSense by Chrysler and Active Lane Keeping by Mercedes. There is a further enhancement available, and this enhancement adjusts the steering to return a car to its lane and is known as Active Steer or Auto Steer. Although a potentially useful feature, as long as a driver maintains eyes on the road, it is not worth the significant additional cost.
Rear Cross Traffic
This technology is used when operating a vehicle in reverse, such as backing out of a parking space or driveway. Sensors located in the rear create a warning when something is approaching. It is referred to as Rear Cross Path Detection by Fiat and Rear Traffic Alert by Volkswagen. It is a worthwhile feature because sometimes your view of the sides is partially or completely obstructed.
Adaptive Headlights & LED Lights
This feature allows the headlights to respond to the steering wheel to better light the way. The Highway Loss Data Institute reported a 10% reduction in accidents among vehicles equipped with the option. LED lights are another available feature instead of halogen bulbs because they are consistently brighter. Both of these lighting options are particularly useful for drivers in regions where there is significant snowfall, and this snow accumulates around the headlights, reducing their effectiveness.
Contrary to what you might expect, these advanced technologies, particularly those features that are positioned in the vehicle's exterior, are causing auto insurance rates to rise considerably. More safety measures usually mean reduced insurance premiums, but here, two factors are in effect: (1) expense of new features; and (2) placement of the new features.
Fender panels, bumpers, and side view mirrors are all common areas of impact in car accidents, and these areas are also the location of many of these new safety features. Replacement of these features is expensive. For example, a traditional side view mirror can cost approximately $175 to replace, but a side view mirror equipped with an advanced safety feature can cost $500.
Keep in mind that this surge in cost applies not only to auto collisions or comprehensive insurance coverage, but the minimum liability insurance may also increase for the same reason.
Safety First, at All Costs
Regardless of costs, including increased insurance premiums, if the safety feature saves lives, then it is ultimately worth it. If you are in a car for any amount of time each day, it may be wise for you to consider fitting your car with an additional safety feature.