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Here’s My Vote for Lane Departure Warnings

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night(select to view enlarged photo)
It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

Electronic Fence

Here’s My Vote for Lane Departure Warnings

From Maureen McDonald
Senior Editor
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

SEE ALSO: My Car Does What?
SEE ALSO: New Vehicle Technologies Can Double Repair Bills For Minor Collisions

It was a dark and stormy night. Really.

I went to a horror movie in downtown Pontiac just before Halloween and wound up with my own scary experience. My GPS guided me down a dark street with only one building left standing. I went slow, thinking the road was narrow. I veered over to the right where a Cadillac was surging up on the right. I bumped it when departing from my lane. Visibility was nonexistent.

Nervous about stopping in a strange area devoid of lights, I drove until I came to an open party store where I could assess the damages in a well-lit parking lot. Was I bumped by someone who wanted to rob me? How had anyone passed me on a narrow road? If I had lane departure warning on my Volkswagen it never would have happened. Instead I got too close to a vehicle in the next lane and forced the other car into the curb. I was clearly at fault on a night that was anything but clear. I’ll be responsible for damages, fortunately nothing major on my car.

Protection against accidents such as this are becoming a “must have” feature on newer cars, according to Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports. Speaking in Detroit last week he cited the special reports, “The Positive Impact of Advanced Safety Systems for Cars.”

Consumers praise the buzzers, beepers or chips alert them to unintentional drifting. The car itself sounds a warning or in some vehicles helps steer it back toward the center of the lane. In an earlier report, Consumer Reports found more than 77 percent of Cadillac, Hyundai and Tesla owners were very satisfied with their LDW system, followed by Lexus, Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep. But 41 percent of owners surveyed said the LDW system gave at least one false alert.

While a buzzer would have saved my vehicle and the slightly rumpled Cadillac I encountered, it isn’t a fix for all situations. Consumer Reports said such a system can be intrusive on curvy roads. Giving a wide berth to a cyclist or pedestrian may cause the system to steer the car back to toward the curb, scaring everyone involved.

How does it work? LDW systems react quickly to lane drifting and warns you that you could encounter another vehicle or the edge of the road. All the devices employ a low-cost camera mounted on the windshield near the rear-view mirror that monitors the lane striping. If you want total protection, opt for a vehicle with adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warnings and blind spot protection.

I was mighty frightened when I stopped at the first well-lit destination and the driver of the Cadillac came out and yelled at me. I apologized profusely. I didn’t see him through rain, fog and darkness. My next car will have an LDW system because the price for the option has fallen below $1,000 and I believe will fall even more...if fact driver assistance technologies will soon be standard in every new car sold in North America in every price bracket.

For those who can’t afford a new vehicle but wants the new tecnologies peace of mind virtually every online aftermarket parts stores now sell lane departure warning systems...prices are falling rapidly; here is an advanced unit from Mobileye that last year sold for $1400 but is now selling for under $750, if fact you can choose from hundreds of basic unit from hundred's of retailers for under $100, so there is no more excuse to put off a safety retrofit of your car...none.

It was a dark and stormy night....