British roads are, by and large, safer today than they ever have been. The total number of casualties has fallen from 207,000 in 2011 to around 119,000 in 2021. And, if you look further back in time, the progress you find is even more impressive.
To be sure, there are a range of factors feeding into this trend. The lockdown measures put in place to deal with Covid-19 have played a role. There have been changes to the law, and in our attitudes to road safety.
But the technology that goes into our cars has transformed beyond recognition, too – and the pace of this chance is likely to increase as the driving-assist revolution gains traction. A modern car like the Vauxhall Grandland, for example, is bristling with technological aids.
Let’s take a look at five innovations that are helping to make our roads safer than they ever have been.
Adaptive headlights are a remarkably simple innovation, but an effective one when it comes to ensuring visibility, while avoiding blinding the oncoming traffic. This is something that a driver can do by themselves – but having it happen automatically reduces the margin for error.
Lane departure warnings
If you aren’t paying attention to the road, or you’re excessively tired, then you might find it easy to drift from one lane into the other. That’s where lane-departure warnings come in. They provide the driver when an alert when the vehicle begins to drift. In some cases, the vehicle will automatically nudge itself back onto the appropriate trajectory.
Blind spot alert
It’s one of the major weaknesses of the traditional car, whose visibility is limited by the angle of its mirrors: the blind spot just behind your shoulders. If you fail to spot a vehicle hiding in your blind spot, and you go to change lanes, you might run into an unexpected collision. When this happens at high speed, the results can be disastrous.
Blind spot alert works by providing an electronic chime whenever there’s a vehicle in your blind spot.
Anti-Lock Braking System
ABS has been around for so long that many of us don’t even think of it as a form of driving assistance. It works by applying and releasing the brakes multiple times, to prevent the wheel from locking up. This is something you can do yourself by pumping the brake – but cars which do it automatically tend to be much safer.
This technology has been developed by Nissan. It’s a means through which non-visible information can be projected onto your windscreen. So, if there’s a car around the corner, you’ll be able to see it, even if there are bushes and buildings in the way. This is a form of augmented reality which could one day prove indispensable on narrow country lanes.