Intersection assistance technology to reduce crashes by older drivers

As the number of older drivers grows rapidly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHA) says advanced driver assistance technology can help reduce injuries and fatalities.

“Left turn assist and other, upcoming intersection-assistance technologies could deliver big safety benefits for drivers in their 70s and 80s,” says IIHS Research Associate Aimee Cox.

The number of older drivers in the US is growing rapidly because Americans are living longer and retaining their licenses later in life. That raises safety concerns, as drivers in their 70s and 80s are at a greater risk of certain types of crashes and more prone to severe injuries and fatalities than younger people. For example, age-related decline in their vision and cognitive abilities make left turn crashes more common.

To gain a better understanding of how available and upcoming crash avoidance features might help, IIHS researchers used federal crash data from 2016-19 to compare the types of crashes that are most common for older drivers and their middle-aged counterparts. They then estimated how many police-reported crashes, driver injuries and driver fatalities could be addressed by five existing features as well as two others that aren’t yet available. The latter features depend on vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity that allows vehicles to share information about their location, speed and intended path, and that is not currently widespread.

All the features could deliver substantial gains. Overall, about 60% of the crashes involving either age group could potentially be addressed by at least one of the safety features covered in the study. More common features like automatic emergency breaking (AEB) and lane departure prevention were relevant to a large portion of crashes for both sets of drivers. However, such conventional features applied to more crashes of middle-aged drivers than crashes of drivers in their 70s and older.

Intersection-assistance features, which are newer and less well known, could offer older drivers even more help. Such features were potentially relevant to 32% of older driver crash involvements, 38% of older driver injuries and 31% of older driver fatalities. They could also have big safety benefits for middle-aged drivers, as they were relevant to more than a fifth of all crashes for that age group.

Left turn assist uses a camera and other sensors to detect oncoming vehicles when the driver signals a left turn, warning against proceeding if the software determines a collision is likely. Vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity, which is still on the horizon, would enable similar, more sophisticated features.

If the vision of its designers comes to fruition, it would eventually link every vehicle on the road, allowing them to communicate their positions, speed and travel path. Vehicle-to-vehicle-enhanced left turn assist would allow the turning vehicle to know the speed and trajectory of oncoming traffic, even if a hill or obstruction makes it difficult to see.

Another planned feature called intersection movement assist would allow vehicles to warn drivers of possible collisions with others approaching a crossroads from multiple directions at various speeds and with different intentions.

For middle-aged drivers, the data showed that intersection-assistance technologies as a group could be relevant to some 650,000 crashes per year as well as more driver injuries than any of the other features covered in the study. However, intersection-assistance features would be relevant to far fewer middle-aged driver fatalities than lane departure prevention, which is designed to address run-off-road, sideswipe and head-on crashes.

This article courtesy of Russell Thrall III, publisher CollisionWeek. Check out the website at:

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