Crash-Avoidance Feature Shows Positive Results in Claims Analysis

One automaker has found a high-tech way to help drivers steer clear of fender benders, according to new research by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

A study released Tuesday found that drivers of Volvo XC60 midsize SUVs were significantly less likely than those behind the wheel of comparable vehicles to cause the kind of low-speed, rear-end crashes that have long plagued rush-hour motorists.

That’s because of a collision-avoidance feature called City Safety, which uses an infrared laser sensor built into the windshield to detect vehicles close to the front bumper and automatically applies the brakes.

City Safety monitors the area directly in front of the SUV when it is traveling under 20 mph, reacting to vehicles within 18 feet of the front bumper in the daytime or at night. It does not alert the driver before braking.

Volvo and other manufacturers offer optional systems that help motorists avoid higher-speed wrecks, but researchers say City Safety is the first to focus on more common slow-motion collisions that can occur when drivers are momentarily distracted.

“This is our first real-world look at an advanced crash avoidance technology, and the findings are encouraging,” Adrian Lund, president of HLDI, said in a news release. “City Safety is helping XC60 drivers avoid the kinds of front-to-rear, low-speed crashes that frequently happen on congested roads.”

Volvo XC60The safety feature has been standard on XC60s since the 2010 model year and is also included with some other Volvo sedans and wagons.

David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), said the agency is researching collision-avoidance systems and monitoring the efforts of Volvo and other automakers to prevent deaths, injuries and property damage.

“We are pleased to see automobile manufacturers moving forward with new technologies designed to improve safety,” Strickland said in an emailed statement.

The study compared at-fault insurance claims involving XC60s against those involving other Volvos and similar luxury SUVs, neither of which were equipped with City Safe.

It found that XC60 drivers filed claims for damage they had done to other vehicles 27 percent less frequently than drivers of other SUVs and at-fault bodily injury claims 51 percent less often.

City Safety also lessened the extent of damages to the XC60s. Collision claims—which cover damages to a policyholder’s vehicle—were $147 lower on average than those for other Volvos and $517 less than those involving other comparable SUVs.

The only area in which the XC60 had worse loss data when compared with other cars was the average size of property damage liability insurance claims. The average property damage claim costs were 10 percent higher for those behind the wheel of XC60s than for drivers of similar SUVs and 27 percent higher than for other Volvos.

HLDI officials said the higher property damage costs were because City Safe helps motorists avoid low-speed collisions, which happen more often than crashes at higher speeds. The frequency of claims involving higher-speed wrecks was the same for all vehicles in the study.

Studies by NHTSA and other organizations have shown that high-speed crashes have more severe—and often deadly—consequences than those at lesser speeds. But even minor accidents can affect premiums and make it difficult to maintain quality automobile insurance coverage.

HLDI researchers controlled for a number of factors that can affect claims, including the state in which an SUV was garaged and the local density of vehicles, as well as motorists’ age, gender and marital status.

The study could not account for everything, however. While all the XC60s were equipped with City Safety, there was no way to tell if any drivers had manually turned the system off prior to a crash.


About Gregor McGavin
Gregor McGavin is an award-winning journalist who has reported across the country for such publications as The Associated Press, the Arizona Republic, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Press-Enterprise.

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