Safety First: Car Crashes, Innovation, and Why Federal Policy Should Prioritize Adoption of Existing Technologies to Save Lives

To provide a guide for policymakers and the auto industry on how best to substantially and expeditiously reduce road crashes, deaths, and injuries, this study analyzed the safety benefits of currently available crash avoidance systems and other existing motor vehicle safety technologies, including a review of the safety research that has been conducted on the topic. The focus of this analysis was the publicly available fatality reduction benefits of safety technologies extrapolated to the entire U.S. light vehicle fleet — with systems evaluated that exist today, as opposed to creating estimates of effectiveness based on simulated or idealized technology. The analysis found that currently available automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW), blind spot warning (BSW), and pedestrian detection technologies would be expected to combine for fatality reductions of 11,800 lives per year once fully adopted fleetwide. Two safety applications of V2V communications technology — intersection movement assist (IMA) and left turn assist (LTA) — would be estimated to save more than 1,300 lives per year with full fleet adoption. One existing drunk driving prevention technology, the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), would be estimated to save 3,700-7,400 lives under the scenarios assessed. Summed together, existing motor vehicle safety technology would save 16,800-20,500 lives per year if equipped across the full U.S. light vehicle fleet. This totals approximately one-half of the 36,560 lives lost on U.S. roads in 2018. Therefore, to cut roadway fatalities in half, policymakers should prioritize requiring and setting strong performance standards for existing vehicle safety technologies, and automakers should equip effective systems standard across all trim lines of their models as soon as possible.

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