Incidents where drivers were at risk of crashing into a car ahead of them in traffic dropped between 30 to 45 percent when study participants installed and used accident-avoidance systems in their older cars.

How an Aftermarket System Can Increase Your Car’s Safety and Prevent Accidents

It’s human nature to feel envy at the site of a neighbor’s new car, but you shouldn’t have to envy the new car’s increased safety and additional security features. With a bit of research and a few extra dollars, you can add Jetsons-era safety tech to even your Flintstones-era car.

Newer vehicles are coming with innovative safety features that can dramatically reduce the odds of getting into a serious or fatal auto accident; they also dramatically increase your sticker price. In general, these crash avoidance systems are so effective in helping to prevent rear-end crashes and saving lives, that the National Transportation Safety Board has been pushing for them to become standard equipment in all cars and trucks.

The good news is that you can add some of these features such as crash-avoidance alert systems and lane-changing assistance to used cars built before the new tech was ever designed.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is famous for rating new cars, tested one of these retrofit systems and found that it improves the safety of older cars. Installing a collision warning system and a device that monitors driving habits and provides feedback can encourage drivers to drive their cars and trucks more safely. The systems can be especially useful for families with younger drivers and those who can’t afford new cars with the latest in driver-assistance tech.

The safety lab installed aftermarket safety systems in the personal vehicles of 22 staff members. Each of them was equipped with a Mobileye Model 630 collision-warning system, which retails online for $740-$1250. The lab also equipped 17 of the vehicles with Geotab telematics units, which businesses use to monitor the driving habits of employees using fleet cars and trucks. Depending on the dealer and model, the units cost $79-$499. In the end, both options will save consumers money aftermarket in comparison with the thousands of additional dollars new car buyers may spend to buy options packages with factory-installed anti-collision systems.

What the Aftermarket Tools Do

While high-end factory driver-assistance systems can employ arrays of cameras, lasers, and radar sensors facing in different directions, the Mobileye unit studied by IIHS makes the most out of a single forward-looking digital camera that recognizes traffic and obstacles. The system calculates hazards, speeds, and distances to give several types of warnings. Each alert has a distinct warning beep and flashing light on a dashboard-fitted display:

  • A forward collision warning suited for highway driving
  • An urban forward collision warning that operates at speeds of 20 mph and less
  • A pedestrian collision warning
  • Headway monitoring, which, when traveling at 19 mph and faster, measures the distance between your vehicle and the one ahead
  • A lane-departure warning that beeps when you drive out of your lane
  • A speed limit indicator that shows you the posted limit on the road you’re traveling

The factory-installed anti-collision systems, as profiled by Consumer Reports, may also incorporate automatic braking systems that can predict imminent crashes and apply the brakes even without your help. Some even have “rear cross alerts,” which give a warning if, for instance, you’re backing out of a parking space and into the path of an oncoming car.

Anti-Crash Tech Makes Better Drivers

Researchers found that drivers using the systems used their turn signals more often and kept safer distances from other cars.

The Mobileye system and the accompanying telematics system scored rural and urban drivers’ performance over certain distances and time periods, first without the active crash alerts and then with the alerts activated. The researchers found that the behaviors causing the alerts to trigger began to drop once the warnings were activated. With the relative lack of competing traffic, the rural drivers triggered fewer total warnings and, percentage-wise, saw the greatest decrease.

Rural drivers’ forward-crash warning incidents dropped by 45 percent while urban drivers saw their rates decline by 30 percent. Urban drivers, however, gained a bigger edge when it came to lane-departure warnings. Their warnings dropped by 70 percent, while rural drivers’ warnings dropped by only 54 percent. Alerts for following too close decreased by 63 percent for rural drivers and 39 percent for urban drivers. While participants drove more safely with the active warning alerts, their speeding habits hardly changed, the researchers found.

IIHS researcher Ian Reagan, who conducted the study, said if drivers see the warning systems as useful, they’re more likely to keep them turned on and benefit from them. Commercial fleet managers and anxiety-prone managers benefit indirectly. Reagan said:

“If Dad wants to pass down his old Honda Accord to his teenage daughter, adding an aftermarket collision warning system before handing over the keys is one way to give the car a safety refresh.”

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