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Toyota and Other Carmakers Need to Do their Part to Improve Vehicle Safety

Motor vehicle recalls tend to garner a lot of headlines when they are announced. That is rightly so, because the need for a recall usually indicates a serious safety concern involving traffic accidents.

More attention should also be paid, however, to what auto manufacturers are doing proactively to design safer cars and trucks. Recalls are about fixing product defects and other past problems. What are carmakers like Toyota doing to make safer vehicles for the future?

Toyota recently announced that will provide funding for several research projects on vehicle safety. The automakers is partnering on this with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) and others to develop recommendations for improving safety.

The projects will seek to gather more detailed data on distracted driving, teenage drivers who are newly licensed, and senior drivers whose faculties are failing.

Inattention is a key problem regardless of age. In one study at VTTI, inattention was the cause of 54 of the 69 crashes studied.

The studies that Toyota is funding are likely to have clear implications for the design of cars, particularly when it comes to the installation of automatic systems. For example, Toyota and the MIT AgeLab are working on a study that examines how command systems that are built right into the vehicle affect driver distraction.

One question that this study seeks to answer is how voice-activated navigation controls may affect driver performance.

And then there is the issue of which smartphone applications should be allowed to be installed directly into vehicles by the manufacturer. These applications need to be handled with care, considering how they can contribute to distracted driving accidents.

Source: "Toyota takes on the myth of the above-average driver," CNN Money, 9-22-11

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