2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, a perfect-scoring car in the IIHS front-end crash avoidance ratings

Thanks to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, automakers are adding automatic braking systems to help drivers avoid front-end crashes, reports David Shepardson for The Detroit News. That is because many consumers consult the ratings before deciding what car to buy. The IIHS debuted a new rating system last year for front-crash prevention, Shepardson writes. He quotes David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer, who said: “We are already seeing improvements from automakers since the initial launch of our ratings last September.”

In its most recent evaluation of 24 cars and SUVs, whose results were announced Wednesday, IIHS rated 21 of those vehicles with advanced or higher ratings, Shepardson writes. Four of the vehicles earned perfect scores: the 2014 BMW 5 Series and X5, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and the 2015 Hyundai Genesis.

As Jerry Hirsch writes for the Los Angeles Times, the top-scoring cars are all luxury vehicles. And, making things worse for safety-minded car buyers on a budget, these front-crash prevention systems are not standard features on all vehicles; the ones that work best come with special camera and radar options that increase the cost of the vehicles. Hirsch writes:

Shoppers concerned about which options offer the highest-rated systems need to research the packages. Some versions of the BMW 5 series, for example, are rated superior while others have a lower rating.

In addition to those cars that earned perfect scores, four others got the highest rating of superior even though they were not considered “perfect,” Hirsch writes. Those are: the 2014 Buick Regal, Cadillac CTS, the Cadillac XTS, and the Chevrolet Impala, when they have General Motors’ forward-collision warning and auto-braking system, Shepardson writes. In a press release, IIHS writes:

The Institute rates vehicles as basic, advanced or superior for front crash prevention depending on whether they offer autobrake and, if so, how effective it is in tests at 12 and 25 mph.

Bengt Halvorson writes for The Car Connection that, according to IIHS, more than 20% of 2014 vehicle models offer front crash protection systems with automatic braking capabilities. Front-end crashes comprise 60% of fatal car accidents, Shepardson writes. He adds:

The systems show great promise to save hundreds — if not thousands — of lives by warning inattentive drivers before they hit a car ahead, or alerting them they are about to go off the road — or intervening to prevent crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not adhere to a self-imposed Dec. 31, 2013, deadline to decide whether it would begin the process of requiring automakers to place the front-end-crash prevention systems in all new vehicles, and the agency has not proposed a timetable for when it might make that decision, Shepardson writes. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is opposed to a mandatory rule, saying the crash-prevention systems can add $1,000 to $3,500 per vehicle. However, costs will decline because most such systems are based on software, Shepardson writes.

Finally, Shepardson notes, “IIHS estimates it takes at least 30 years for a safety feature to spread to 95 percent of vehicles on the road.” The IIHS website lists the ratings by make and model, as well as the availability of crash-avoidance features.

In a related news item, NHTSA released a study titled The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010,” finding that vehicle crashes cost Americans $871 billion per year. That breaks down to $277 billion in economic costs and $594 billion in harm from loss of life, pain, and decreased quality of life because of injuries, as ClickOn Detroit reports.

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