When you care about reducing the number of preventable injuries and deaths in traffic accidents, it’s exciting to see the new technology carmakers are adding for just that purpose. But the latest collision-avoidance tech comes at a price. You’ll get some of it whenever you buy a new car, but sometimes the best features are only available on higher-end models.
What can you do if you can’t afford an expensive new car? You don’t want to wait years for the technology to become widely available on used cars. You don’t want to miss out on technology that demonstrably improves safety.
There’s good news: Driver assistance technologies that are reasonably comparable to those available on new cars are available on the aftermarket for less than you might expect. And, not only will it help prevent accidents but it could also teach you — or your teen — to be a better driver.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests an aftermarket system
Recently, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) decided to see how effective an aftermarket crash-avoidance system might be. It performed a small study of its employees, who work in both urban and rural areas.
To participate in the study, 22 employees had an “advanced driver assistance technology system” by a major manufacturer installed on their existing vehicles. The system kept track of whether the drivers were following too closely, changing lanes without signaling, speeding or encountering obstacles in their path that could cause a collision.
For the first month, the system kept track of the drivers’ behavior and experience but took no action. This was to create a baseline.
After that, visual and auditory warnings began. The system chirped at the drivers every time they transgressed.
At first, it was annoying. Some of the drivers reported that the alarms seemed to go off over very small errors like cutting corners on a curve when no other vehicles were around. A couple of times it wasn’t clear why the alarms went off, as no danger was evident.
But soon the drivers were more appreciative. One man says the system prevented a crash when he glanced away from the road for a moment and traffic abruptly slowed. Others appreciated being alerted to risky situations.
Another effect also became apparent. The chirps and beeps acted as real-time feedback on each person’s driving performance. And, their driving started to improve — rapidly.
One driver started using his turn signal regularly. Another came to realize that he had a tendency to follow too closely. “That was a big revelation,” he said.
Over the course of the three-month study, the number of alarms dropped between 30 and 70%.
It turns out that the regular, specific feedback about common driving errors can actually improve drivers’ performance. Wouldn’t you like your teenager to get that feedback? Perhaps you could benefit from it, as well.
Aftermarket crash-avoidance systems start at less than $1,000
For now, the aftermarket installation of these collision-avoidance systems is only a small part of the market. Most of these systems are sold to manufacturers and fleets. However, the manufacturer involved in the study told reporters that they may begin focusing more on the aftermarket.
The system the IIHS employees used is available for cars and light trucks and costs about $650 to $850 plus installation. The installation takes about an hour and then you’re ready to go.
Of the 22 IIHS employees who tested the system, all but one opted to keep it.