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Increase Implementation of Collision Avoidance Systems in All New
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 Increase Implementation of Collision Avoidance Systems in All New

Collision Avoidance header graphic

What is the problem?

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death and injuries in the United States, yet many of these crashes might have been prevented if collision avoidance systems—readily available and proven to work—were installed.

Drivers—not vehicles—are the cause of most crashes. Humans make mistakes and bad decisions, such as driving when they’re impaired, distracted, or fatigued. That’s where collision avoidance systems can help. They can stop a crash before it happens or mitigate its severity. They can also warn drivers of an impending crash so they can take the appropriate action.

Collision avoidance system components:

  • A collision warning system (CWS)
  • Automatic emergency braking (AEB)

(Other helpful technologies include lane departure warning, blind spot detection, and adaptive cruise control)

Although CWSs were first introduced on commercial vehicles, today, the rate of installation in passenger vehicles is much higher than in commercial vehicles. This is concerning, considering that the number of combination trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2017 increased by nearly 6 percent from 2016.

More and more passenger vehicles and light trucks are coming to dealerships equipped with collision avoidance systems, yet many consumers don’t know how they work. According to a 2018 study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, many drivers don’t understand the capabilities and limitations of the safety technologies and rely too heavily on them, which may actually increase the risk of crashes.

What can be done?

We have encouraged technological countermeasures to prevent or mitigate crashes since 1995. In 2015, we released a study (SIR-15/01) on the benefits of forward collision avoidance systems and their ability to prevent thousands of crashes. The report analyzed nine catastrophic commercial vehicle crashes that would have been prevented or mitigated with these systems. The report included recommendations to passenger and commercial vehicle manufacturers to include forward collision avoidance systems as standard equipment in all new vehicles. Several months after our report, in an agreement with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, passenger vehicle manufacturers promised to do exactly what our recommendations asked for: to make AEB standard equipment in all newly manufactured vehicles by 2022.

This is a step in the right direction, but more can be done to ensure these technologies are implemented more quickly—especially in commercial vehicles (heavy-duty trucks and buses)—and to increase consumer awareness of their benefits and capabilities.

To increase implementation of collision avoidance systems, the following actions should be taken:

Regulators (NHTSA)

  • Complete standards for collision warning and AEB systems in commercial vehicles and require this technology in all highway vehicles.
  • Improve consumer awareness about collision avoidance systems available in passenger vehicles by rating them in the New Car Assessment Program’s 5-Star rating system, and include the ratings on vehicle Monroney labels.

Vehicle Manufacturers

  • Install and make standard in all vehicles forward collision avoidance systems that, at a minimum, include a collision warning component. They should not just be options sold as part of expensive add-on packages.


  • Buy vehicles with collision warning and AEB systems. Learn how these systems work and understand their limitations. They help you drive safely; they do not drive the vehicle for you.


  • Educate consumers on the capabilities and limitations of forward collision avoidance systems.

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