Each year, roadway crashes kill about 38,000 people. About 800 of those deaths occur in work zones, and at least 100 of them are workers, including many LIUNA members. But help may be on the way, in the form of new and better technology from car manufacturers. As of May 2018, all new cars sold in the U.S. had to come equipped with backup cameras. But backup cameras are only the beginning. Many other features are increasingly being offered as standard features in new vehicles, and several of them show a lot of promise for preventing crashes, fatalities and injuries. They should also help work zone intrusions. And best of all, there is evidence they actually work.
Every year, thousands of drivers – many distracted by their cell phones – crash into the back of vehicles in front of them or end up as motorist intrusions in work zones. Rear-end collisions account for about 30 percent of all traffic accidents that result in serious injuries.
Some cars now come equipped with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), which first warns the driver if they get too close to the car in front of them and then applies the brakes to avoid a crash. Research in 2019 by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute showed that AEB technology reduced the risk of crashes by 46 percent. Another technology that can help prevent rear-end collisions is Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), which maintains a set distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you when using cruise control.
Stay in Your Lane
Work zone intrusions often happen when drivers stray from their lane, perhaps because of drowsy driving. A new technology called Lane Keep Assistance (LKA) helps by warning drivers when they roam outside of lane markings. The Michigan study found this technology reduced the risk of crashes by 20 percent. When paired with a blind spot warning (BSW) system, the results were even better, at 26 percent.
In urban areas, pedestrians are also often at risk from motorists along the roadway and in work zones. Some AEB systems also include pedestrian warning systems as well, which activates the brakes when pedestrians or cyclists are detected.
While backup cameras on construction vehicles can’t be relied on to stop all backover incidents, they can help. The same idea is true of rear-view cameras on passenger vehicles, which are now standard equipment and have been common in new vehicles since around 2014. Many newer vehicles have taken this technology further and now include rear cross traffic alert, reverse automatic braking and rear parking assist. When combined, these technologies reduced accidents while backing up by up to 81 percent.
Night driving has also gotten safer through new technologies like Intellibeam, which automatically switches from high beams to low beams when a car is coming the other way. This technology reduced nighttime crashes by 35 percent. High-intensity discharge (HID) headlights, which produce a blue-white glow instead of the normal glow of older headlights, helped reduce crashes by 21 percent.
As new cars with improved technologies continue to replace older models, we could see a dramatic drop in crashes and improvements in work zone safety. Next time you’re in the market for a new car, ask which safety features come standard and which cost extra. The answer might surprise you!