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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has taken dead aim at stamping out distracted driving and with good reason. Last year, inattentive drivers caused around 950,000 accidents. But according to a new study by the Society of Automotive Engineers, there's another issue causing even more accidents across the country: turn signal neglect. According to their research, drivers neglect their turn signals, either by failing to turn when their signal is activated or not activating the signal at all, an astonishing 750 billion times a year. What's more, neglecting the signals may be responsible for as many as two million accidents per year.

SAE says the solution lies in the implementation of so-called "Smart Turn Signals," which use sensors to shut off turn signals before they become a safety hazard. What's more, engineers can integrate a "Turn Signal Assist" feature, which uses a vehicle information display to alert the driver if they fail to use turn signals on a regular basis or don't shut them off in a timely manner. The report says that since the system uses sensors already integrated into the stability control module, there would be no cost added to the vehicle's bottom line.

This is our skeptical face. We're major proponents of proper and consistent turn signal use, but we're bigger fans of creating smarter drivers through education than we are of building smarter cars. Hit the jump for the full press release.
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Epidemic Turn Signal Neglect Rate Now Approaching 50%, Causing Millions of Crashes per Year

Society of Automotive Engineers Report: with Effects Worse than Distracted Driving, Turn Signal Neglect is No Longer Just an Annoyance

Dayton, Ohio (PRWEB) April 24, 2012

In a revealing new report published by the Society of Automotive Engineers this week at the 2012 SAE World Congress, an in-depth observation study of turn signal rate-of-neglect not only exposes how widespread the problem is, but how simple the solution is.

A total of 12,000 turning and lane-changing vehicles were observed with visible turn signal usage (or neglect) data recorded. The study shows that the neglect rate for lane changing vehicles is 48% and the neglect rate for turning vehicles is 25%. That translates to an astonishing 750 billion times a year that drivers neglect turn signals on U.S. roadways, or over 2 billion times per day. Each incident of neglect elevates the risk of a multi-vehicle crash.

Obviously, not every absent turn signal results in a crash, but the study concludes that the collective result of turn signal neglect is as many as 2 million crashes per year. In comparison, the U.S. Department of Transportation states that Distracted Driving causes about 950,000 crashes per year, so Turn Signal Neglect is actually a more significant safety issue. While the causes and remedies to combat Distracted Driving remain a matter of ongoing debate, the remedy for Turn Signal Neglect is simple, direct, effective, and cost-saving: The singular cause is driver neglect and the solution is the Smart Turn Signal.

Smart Turn Signals use vehicle sensors and computer control to not only shut off the turn signal appropriately and accurately under every conceivable driving situation, but also assists the driver to assure that the turn signal is used regularly. The Turn Signal Assist feature is similar to a seat belt reminder – If you habitually neglect the use of your turn signal when you execute turns, you will eventually get a friendly reminder display. For drivers who use turn signals nearly every time, no display will ever appear, so it is never a nuisance for most drivers. Drivers who neglect their turn signals will quickly improve their habits and therefore reduce their overall risk of involvement in a crash as well as reducing the risk of getting a traffic citation.

Smart Turn Signals actually use the information from the very same vehicle sensors used for the Stability Control System (now standard on all new cars), so no cost is added to the vehicle. In fact, there are savings in cost, space and weight because the turn signal trip mechanism is eliminated. Advances in vehicle computer control have exposed the defects of the trip mechanism, which first went into production in 1940 and has remained unimproved for 72 years.

"This is a first of its kind report on a subject that amazingly, has never been studied. The turn signal is one of the very original automotive crash prevention devices and this simple driver to driver communication device remains extremely effective, but only when it is accurately displayed as required by law", states Richard Ponziani, P.E., President of RLP Engineering and author of the report. "The turn signal can no longer be considered 'optional' and all drivers have an ongoing duty to use it, just as they have a duty to stop at a stop sign or at a red light" he added. Ponziani further stated: "Smart Turn Signals are the perfect complement to the Stability Control System since Stability Control predominately prevents single-vehicle crashes, whereas the Smart Turn Signal prevents multi-vehicle crashes".

The Smart Turn Signal system has been in development for the past several years and the highly favorable cost to benefit ratio makes the urgent need for Smart Turn Signals even more obvious. It is anticipated that this life-saving technology will be integrated into production vehicles in the near future. This breakthrough represents a perfect opportunity to significantly reduce multi-vehicle crash rates, reduce vehicle cost and make driving a lot more friendly and courteous across the U.S.

The SAE report, publication number 2012-01-0261 is available at http://www.sae.org. RLP Engineering is a consulting firm in Dayton, Ohio specializing in vehicle safety design.