In 2012 alone, more than 1.7 million rear-end crashes occurred on our nation’s highways, resulting in more than 1,700 fatalities and 500,000 injured people. Many of these crashes could have been mitigated, or possibly even prevented, had rear-end collision avoidance technologies been in place. However, slow and insufficient action on the part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop performance standards for these technologies and require them in passenger and commercial vehicles, as well as a lack of incentives for manufacturers, has contributed to the ongoing and unacceptable frequency of rear-end crashes.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has an extensive history of investigating rear-end crashes and has encouraged technological countermeasures since 1995. To date, the NTSB has issued 12 recommendations pertaining to this safety issue.
In 2001, the NTSB released a Special Investigation Report on rear-end crashes that focused on technology as a potential countermeasure and made several recommendations to federal agencies and vehicle manufacturers (NTSB 2001). Due to a lack of progress in the implementation of NTSB recommendations intended to mitigate or prevent rear-end crashes, the recent technological advancements in collision avoidance technologies, and the continued prevalence of rear-end crashes, the NTSB is revisiting the topic of rear-end crash prevention.
This report describes the common causes of rear-end crashes, considers some of the latest potential solutions and countermeasures, reiterates and reclassifies previous recommendations, and issues new recommendations aimed at reducing the number and severity of such crashes. Specifically, the main goals of this report include the following:
- Reviewing the progress of the implementation of previous recommendations related to rear-end crash mitigation,
- Examining the real-world and predicted efficacy of currently available collision avoidance technologies and the potential for such technologies to mitigate or prevent rear-end crashes,
- Examining current methods of assessment and rating systems for collision avoidance technologies, and
• Exploring options for increasing the presence of such technologies in newly manufactured vehicles.
Ultimately, the NTSB’s investigation found that currently available forward collision avoidance technologies for passenger and commercial vehicles still show clear benefits that could reduce rear-end crash fatalities. However, more must be done to speed up deployment of these technologies in all vehicle types. As a result of these findings, the NTSB makes six new recommendations in this report in the following areas:
- For manufacturers to install forward collision avoidance systems as standard features on all newly manufactured passenger and commercial motor vehicles,
- For NHTSA to expand the New Car Assessment Program to include a graded rating to assess the performance of forward collision avoidance systems, and
- For NHTSA to expand or develop protocols for the assessment of forward collision avoidance systems in passenger and commercial vehicles.
The NTSB is also reiterating two recommendations to NHTSA and reclassifying four previous recommendations.