How great would it be to drive to work without having to think about accidental low-speed car accidents? For years now, car companies have been researching collision avoidance systems, which use technology to alert the driver when a collision is possible. Volvo’s XC60 SUV forward collision warning system has received the most attention, and a recent report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicated that the warning system could lead to a significant reduction in car accidents. But is this a new example of dangerous distracted driving technology?

“This is our first real-world look at an advanced crash avoidance technology, and the findings are encouraging,” said IIHS President Adrian Lund. “As people grow more aware of the risks of distracted driving, crash avoidance systems like this one can help to ensure that a momentary lapse of attention during a congested commute doesn’t result in a crash.” The IIHS study found that the Volvo XC60 with the collision warning system led to 27 percent fewer damage liability claims compared to other SUVs. The system, which is designed to work at speeds of 19 miles per hour and lower, was also reported to decrease bodily injury claims by 22 percent.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it is “pleased to see automobile manufacturers moving forward with new technologies designed to improve safety,” and NHTSA administrator David Strickland has vowed the agency will conduct an extensive safety investigation.

Despite the reported benefits of Volvo’s collision avoidance system, I can’t help but wonder whether we should encourage drivers to put so much faith in auto technology. Even if your computer runs properly 95 percent of the time, it will inevitably mess up and delete all your information once in a while. But what leads to a major inconvenience for your personal computer could be incredibly dangerous if it contributes to a car accident. Volvo’s new collision avoidance technology is clearly an upgrade from last year’s model, which crashed during a high profile demo (see video here). But we should wait until further experimental evidence indicates that accident avoidance technology can be trusted beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Even if this technology wins official approval, the best way to avoid distracted driving accidents is to put down the phone while you’re behind the wheel. No amount of technology can replace staying attentive while driving, and that’s unlikely to change.

Photo credit: lander2006

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Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Since 1972 he has been helping seriously injured victims throughout northern California fight & win their personal injury cases. Andy is one of the top awarded & recognized wrongful death lawyers in northern California.