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What warning? Study finds drivers tune out safety alerts

On the one hand, a new study by a group controlled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provides a lot of good news regarding electronic safety devices and warning systems in cars. Property damage liability claims (PDL) dropped by 10% when a car either had autonomous braking systems or adaptive headlights installed on the vehicle. Claims dropped 14% when the car had a collision avoidance system.

But on the other hand, there was some unnerving news about the effectiveness of driver warning systems. The key evidence: lane departure warning systems (which detect how far a car has drifted from the center of their lane, and then alert the driver to the danger) actually increased the number of PDL claims, which means an accident is more likely.

Why would that happen? Simply put, everyone drifts from the center of lane -- may it be in negligible amounts or noticeable swerves.

The lane warning system apparently goes off so often that drivers eventually ignore the warning all together; or, possibly worse, they get aggravated by the system and just turn it off. Either way, the person's normal driving tendencies are interrupted by these studies and they get into accidents as a result.

Some officials close to the study are claiming the statistics about the lane warning systems are not necessarily significant. However, many cars are being outfitted with these types of systems now -- and driverless cars, which would be entirely dependent on similar systems, will utilize them in the near future. How can we as drivers (or passengers) trust unreliable technology that seems to make driving more dangerous?

Source: Wired, "Study Shows Electronic Driver Aids Mostly Help, Occasionally Hurt," Damon Lavrinc, July 3, 2012

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