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
- 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:
- Complete standards for collision warning and AEB systems in
commercial vehicles and require this technology in all highway
- 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.
- 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
- 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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