Motor vehicle wrecks are one of the leading causes of personal injuries in Australia. According to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, nearly 40,000 people are hospitalized each year with serious road crash injuries. In addition, approximately 1,100 individuals are fatally injured in vehicle crashes each year, with Western Australia having the fourth highest number of fatalities behind New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria. These numbers have been historically trending downwards when measured per capita. Many attribute this decrease to developments in technology in motor vehicles, while others credit better and more aggressive policing, a shift in social attitudes, and better awareness of traffic risks.
But whatever the reason may be, it is indisputable that developments in technology are having an effect on car accidents for several reasons. The most obvious reasons that come to mind are the improved safety features of vehicles which help alert drivers to hazards as well as avoid collisions. Other technological developments include better side curtains, airbags, and protective features.
Unfortunately, not all technological developments have had a positive effect on car accidents. Our car accident lawyer Perth are disappointed that some technological developments have increased the risk of preventable accidents, particularly devices such as cell phone and center console displays in vehicles. Other forms of technology, such as self-driving or driver assist, may also give motorists a false sense of security and contribute to crashes that would not have necessarily occurred if a driver had been paying attention.
Positive Developments in Technology Affecting Car Accidents
Automotive technology has been rapidly changing, particularly in the last five years. There are two main reasons why the effects of developments in technology have made a positive impact on car accidents. The first is through driver awareness and crash avoidance systems. The second is through protective features for occupants of a vehicle. Most vehicles have at least one of these systems, but most newer vehicles have a combination of both.
Driver Awareness and Crash Avoidance Systems
One of the most important safety developments in motor vehicles are drive awareness or crash avoidance systems. These are often called “pilot assistance” or “driver assist” safety features. They break down into two main categories.
The first category would be passive features. These are safety devices that a driver can elect to use to help him or her operate a motor vehicle. This includes blind spot indicators, backup cameras, and other general safety features that are always active and monitoring. These systems are always running in the background and monitoring a vehicle and/or driver.
The second category are active features. These are technologies that will react for a driver automatically, such as automatic braking to avoid a rear end collision or active cruise control to adjust speed of traffic. These features engaged on their own, as long as they are turned “on” and are activated.
Some common examples of driver awareness and crash avoidance systems include the following:
Blind spot awareness indicators – these are sensors that monitor the blind spots of a vehicle and provide an indicator light in a side mirror or on the dashboard to alert a driver that there is another vehicle in the blind spot. This allows a driver to check his or her blind spot quickly, and then confirm with the blind spot indicator that it is safe to make a turn or lane change.
Backup cameras – backup cameras help drivers see behind them and often see more than what a driver could see by just turning around. This is because many backup cameras are fisheye lenses, meaning they offer a wider field of vision. Coupled with the fact that the camera is at the back of the vehicle’s bumper, it allows a driver at the front of the car to see oncoming lanes much sooner than if there was no camera. Most backup cameras also superimpose distance gauges to show how close or far an object is in the camera.
Crash avoidance systems – many new vehicles use lasers, radios, and cameras in the front to help avoid a crash. These systems scan for hazards such as vehicles stopped ahead or a pedestrian, animal, or other hazard pulling out in front of the vehicle. If a driver is too slow to react, the crash avoidance system will automatically apply the brakes to avoid a crash.
Lane departure or lane assist systems – a driver who is drifting in and out of lanes is dangerous. Many new vehicles have lane departure or lane assist systems which help keep a vehicle in the lane by making an audible noise, shaking the wheel, or even “popping” a vehicle back into the lane. These help to avoid a sideswipe crash.
Lane change assist – if there is a hazard in a lane that a driver is about to turn into, some vehicles have a lane change assist which will actually pull the driver’s vehicle back into their lane to avoid a collision.
Fatigued driver detection – some vehicles monitor the eyes and head movements of a driver to detect fatigue such as a bobbing head, closed eyes, or a lack of eye movement. If a vehicle detects these activities, it will warn the driver to wake up and pull over to rest or walk.
Heads up display – vehicles with a heads up display create a glow on the bottom of the windshield and near the driver’s gaze. These displays can show the speed limit, present speed, applicable warnings (i.e., school zone), and other useful information.
Our car accident lawyers Perth know how important these driver awareness and crash avoidance systems can be. They have undoubtedly saved numerous lives. However, they are not foolproof. Nothing replaces a human driver’s awareness and surveillance for possible hazards on or around the roadways.
Protective Technologies in Vehicles
Unfortunately, even the best driver awareness and avoidance systems cannot prevent every accident. Fortunately, technological advancements have also had a positive effect on vehicle safety as well. This includes offering drivers and their occupants greater safety features.
The most obvious and least technological advancement may be the three-point seatbelt system. This is the modern seatbelt which, despite its lack of cutting-edge technology like a computer chip, has likely saved thousands if not millions of occupants in a motor vehicle—probably more than any other technology.
Looking at more recent technologies, one of the more innovative safety and protective features in the last five to ten years has been the side curtain. This is an airbag that deploys down the passenger sides of a vehicle and provides two functions. First, it is used to cushion the impact from the side for a driver or passenger. Second, it helps keep debris such as glass or shrapnel in a collision from striking or injuring an occupant. Side curtains are particularly beneficial in rollover crashes and collisions.
Negative Developments in Technology Affecting Car Accidents
While there are many positive aspects of technology in motor vehicles, some of the effects of technology are indeed quite negative. The largest issue is distracted driving, which victims injured due to a distracted driver should always look for a motor vehicle injury compensation lawyer in Perth. This is because a distracted driver is almost always a negligent driver.
According to a recent survey, 78% of those interviewed admitted to driving while distracted by “multitasking.” Another study conducted by Monash University found that Australian drivers are being distracted every 96 seconds, or almost 45% of the time while driving a vehicle. The most common type of distraction in the study was a mobile phone, including texting, checking social media, or talking on the phone while driving. Other distractions included adjusting the radio or GPS.
This is a dangerous tread driven by what we bring into vehicles with us such as mobile phones, tablets, and computers. But the effects of developments in technology already in our vehicles is also disruptive and dangerous. Victims injured should look for a car accident injury solicitor near me for help.
Many newer models seamlessly integrate our phones, email, tablets, and other technology into the vehicle. While this adds convenience and can make it safer by allowing a driver to keep his or her hands on the wheel like placing a call through a button on the steering wheel, it still counts as a distraction that could cause a motor vehicle crash.
This is particularly true because many center consoles are now nothing more than giant touchscreen tablet. These devices allow a driver to scroll or swipe to find a radio station, play downloaded music, or scroll on an interactive map to see where a driver is going, what the traffic is, or to look for a restaurant or servo. All of these distractions are dangerous.
Unfortunately, many car manufacturers have made these distractions mandatory too. Many newer vehicles require motorists to change the radio or adjust the temperature setting by engaging the center tablet screen. Other functions, such as cruise control, also require clicking and setting buttons on the steering wheel or tablet.
Conclusion of the Effects of Developments in Technology on Car Accidents in Australia
While technology can be seen as a boon and a curse, overall some statistics and studies indicate that many advanced driver assistance systems have reduced bodily injury claims by 27% and property damage claims by 19%. These are huge figures which will only continue to grow as these technologies become more affordable and widespread.
However, it is important to realize that technological developments in motor vehicles will never be perfect on their own and they will never replace a reasonably prudent driver. We wish you safe driving.