Driver’s guide: What to know about lane departure warning systems

This 2015 image provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows an illustration of a lane departure warning system while driving on the road. A recent survey showed many U.S. drivers lack awareness and understanding of new safety features like this one. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety via AP)
This 2015 image provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows an illustration of a lane departure warning system while driving on the road. A recent survey showed many U.S. drivers lack awareness and understanding of new safety features like this one. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety via AP) –AP

The basics

Lane departure warning systems use a combination of cameras and sensors to read dividers on roadways and alert a driver when their vehicle has strayed from their designated lane.

If the technology senses the vehicle is moving out of its lane, the system may warn the driver either by flashing a light, sounding an audible alert, or by making the car’s steering wheel or seat vibrate. More advanced lane-keeping systems may even work to keep the car in its lane without the driver’s intervention.

The history

Lane-keeping technology first debuted in the early 1990s in Japan with Mitsubishi’s Debonair. By the early 2000s, other automakers, including Nissan, Honda, and Toyota, had also adopted it.

Advertisement

Lane departure warning technology would make its U.S. debut with the 2005 Infiniti FX.

Russ Rader, senior vice president of communications for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), said lane departure warning systems are now available on almost half of all new vehicles for the 2015 lineup.

But while lane departure warning systems may be gaining popularity, Rader says it’s unclear if the technology is really saving lives by preventing crashes.

“The jury is still out on these systems,’’ said Rader in a phone interview. “But so far we don’t see any evidence they are working to prevent crashes.’’

Questions linger

Rader explained that IIHS tracking methods have not found any evidence to suggest that lane departure technology has played a role in preventing collisions. IIHS tracks data based on insurance claims, and so far a pattern on the effectiveness of lane departure system has not clearly emerged.

“We haven’t seen evidence they are working yet, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be effective in the future,’’ said Rader. “But we haven’t seen it show up in crash data yet.’’

Rader points out that lane departure warnings are offered as a package of additional safety features, such as front-crash prevention systems, making it difficult to separate out.

Advertisement

He also warns that lane departure warnings are can backfire if they wind up distracting the driver.

“There is the risk that if drivers are continually inundated with alerts, chimes, and buzzers – especially false alerts – they may turn off the systems,’’ he said. “Which defeats the purpose of having them.’’

So are consumers who want a lane departure warning system getting a good investment? Rader say it’s still too early to know for sure.

“The key will be to help consumers sort through this technology so they know which ones are worth the money,’’ said Rader. “It’s too early to say if lane departure systems are worth the money.’’

The safest cars of 2015

Loading Comments...