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Driver alertness systems could reduce car insurance premiums

New systems on vehicles that can detect driver alertness could prevent crashes, save lives and lower car insurance premiums. The latest alertness system, developed by Mercedes-Benz, is now available on 2010 E-Class vehicles.

Called the attention assist system, the technology includes sensors that continuously monitor and observe the driver's steering behavior to recognize patterns of minor steering corrections that indicate a drowsy driver.

Once the system recognizes a drowsy driving pattern, it emits an audible and visible warning in the form of an espresso cup icon in the instrument cluster, the company said.

Other systems similar to the attention assist can detect when drivers are veering out of the travel lane and signal a warning, which may be able to prevent crashes to save lives and cut the cost of car insurance premiums.

Forward collision avoidance systems on Acuras, Mercedes and Volvos warn drivers of hazards and can automatically apply the brakes to prevent a crash.

Such systems could be relevant to more than 2 million frontal crashes that occurred per year during 2002-06, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported.

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