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Will Self-Driving Cars Increase Road Safety?

Everyone wants to have a safe experience on America’s roads. But with vehicle accidents and traffic fatalities rising, a safe experience is never guaranteed. The number of vehicles on the roads will only increase in the coming years, exacerbating risk factors and potentially making travel by automobile even more dangerous.

Given the predicament, some experts indicate that self-driving cars could increase road safety.
A Need for Self-Driving Cars to Improve Road Safety
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 38,824 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes in 2020. Further, NHTSA’s preliminary data has 2021’s figures at 42,915 fatalities, a ten percent increase over 2020 and the highest death toll in 16 years. That means automobile accidents are again a leading cause of preventable and injury-related death in the United States.[1]

Information like this means self-driving automobile manufacturers must put safety at the forefront of all tech innovations and future developments.
How Might Self-Driving Cars Increase Road Safety?
Thankfully, plenty of evidence suggests self-driving cars will indeed increase road safety. Self-driving cars will have a 360-degree view at all times. The cars will be able to sense if other cars or obstacles are too near, will be able to spot when a vehicle ahead is braking and will follow speed limit laws. Self driving cars safety features will be compliant with other highway safety and respond to road hazards, poor weather, and congested traffic.

That’s just a start. Proponents of self-driving cars also say that automated systems will cut reaction time in accident scenarios. Given that a significant percentage of accidents are the result of slow reaction time and being distracted (on the part of the driver), self-driving cars may be able to save lives by responding faster and by never becoming distracted in the first place. Quoting the NHTSA, “In some circumstances, automated technologies may be able to detect the threat of a crash and act faster than drivers. These technologies could greatly support drivers and reduce human errors and the resulting crashes, injuries, and economic tolls.”[2]
Who is Liable When an Accident With a Self Driving Car Occurs?
Though such instances will hopefully be rare, self-driving vehicle systems will fail from time to time, and accidents will occur. When the NHTSA was asked to comment on who would be liable in an accident caused by a self-driving vehicle, they responded that questions about liability were still being discussed.

Even though the NHTSA wasn’t willing at the time to go on the record in saying that the companies that manufacture self-driving cars are potentially liable in the event of an accident, that is almost certainly the case. If you or someone you care about is involved in a car accident involving a self-driving or partially-automated vehicle, please call NRS Injury Law at 855.977.6670.

Sources Cited:

[1] NHTSA. “Newly Released Estimates Show Traffic Fatalities Reached a 16-Year High in 2021.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2022. nhtsa.gov

[2] NHTSA. “Automated Vehicles for Safety.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2022. nhtsa.gov

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