A study by Purdue University states that safety systems like ABS and airbags make drivers less vigilant. Fred Mannering, the professor of civil engineering at the university who led the study, brought his team to the water of five years of motor vehicle crashes in Washington State. The students began studying the collisions beginning in 1992, as that was about when airbags and ABS began to be introduced rapidly into the mainstream auto market.

The study compared the accident rates of 1,307 drivers, of which 271 switched from a vehicle without airbags to a vehicle equipped with them. Mannering states that this 'offset hypotheses' could explain why accident rates for anti-lock braking system-equipped vehicles actually increased when the technology was introduced. Mannering also stated that in his own experience driving his vintage MG roadster he is more cautious. Apparently, he also doesn't accelerate quickly on wet roads because his car doesn't have ABS?!

This report has nothing to do with the safety merits of the technologies themselves, but instead the assumptions on which drivers behaved during an important introduction of a new set of safety improvements. While we might agree that ABS and airbags may have given drivers a false sense of confidence, we would much rather be in an airbag-equipped Miata than an ancient MG if we were expecting to run head on into another object. It's hard not to feel like Mannering is letting his own experience and feelings influence his research, but you didn't hear that here. Additionally, it's probably not valid to make assumptions about the behavior of drivers today based on data that is over ten years old and was acquired during a transition period in safety technology. Furthermore, many safety experts, like NHTSA and IIHS, feel the findings questionable, as well. We encourage you to check out the article yourself at Ward's by following the 'read' link below.

[Source: Ward's Auto]