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Forward-Collision Alerts Found to Reduce Auto Crashes

Forward-collision warning systems and headlights that help drivers see around curves reduce the number of car crashes while lane-departure warnings may increase the risk, an insurance study found.

Forward-collision warning systems, which use a camera or radar to gauge what’s ahead of a car, can reduce crashes with other vehicles by as much as 14 percent and so-called adaptive headlights can cut the risk of a multiple-vehicle crash by as much as 10 percent, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute found in a study released today.

“Forward-collision technology is reducing claims, particularly for damage to other vehicles, and adaptive headlights are having an even bigger impact than we had anticipated,” Matt Moore, vice president of the highway loss institute, said in an e-mailed statement.

The systems are proliferating in cars sold in the U.S. The insurance group, based in Arlington, Virginia, studied damage and injury claims for vehicles from Honda Motor Co.’s Acura luxury line, General Motors Co.’s Buick brand, Mazda Motor Corp., Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Volvo Car Corp., the Swedish carmaker owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.

The study found that lane-departure warning systems, which alert a driver when their car drifts, on Mercedes and Buicks increased the risk of a crash. The study didn’t determine why the risk increased when using those alerts.

The institute found no effect on crashes from blind-spot detection and parking-assist features. All of the technologies the study looked at were offered as optional equipment.

Autonomous Braking

Some forward-collision systems are coupled with autonomous braking that slows a car, even if the driver doesn’t react, when a vehicle is approaching something in front of it too quickly.

David Strickland, U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration head, last year said his top priority is preventing crashes. The agency has spent much of its first three decades trying to make cars safer.

NHTSA, in a Federal Register website posting yesterday, said it has been studying forward-collision warning and autonomous braking systems since 2010.

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