In its first study of the effectiveness of front crash prevention systems, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found that vehicles that have such technology are much less likely to rear-end other vehicles. Researchers examined police-reported rear-end crashes among cars that had optional front-crash protection, including models by Acura, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, and Volvo. The study took place in 22 states from 2010 to 2014.
When the researchers compared the crash rates of vehicles with the technology against the crash rates of the same models without, they found that forward-collision warning systems (FCW) alone reduced rear-end crashes by 23%, and FCW with auto brake reduced car accidents by 39%. In addition, the study found that when there were crashes, those with injuries decreased by 42% with forward collision warning and 46% with City Safety, Volvo’s standard low-speed auto braking system. Researchers did a separate study of that, comparing the Volvo S60 with other midsize luxury four-door cars, and the VC60 with other midsize luxury SUVs. The comparison vehicles did not have standard front-crash protection.
According to Jessica Cicchino, the study’s author and the Institute’s vice president for research:
Even when a crash isn’t avoided, systems that have autobrake have a good chance of preventing injuries by reducing the impact speed. Still, it’s surprising that forward collision warning didn’t show more of an injury benefit, given that HLDI [Highway Loss Data Institute] has found big reductions in injury claims with the feature.
As Sanjay Solomon writes for Boston.com, IIHS spokesman Russ Rader said the police data the researchers analyzed did not say which types of injuries were involved in the crashes. But neck injuries related to whiplash are the most common in such cases.
In September, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and IIHS announced that 10 automakers had agreed to make automatic braking a standard feature on all new vehicles. Raider told Boston.com that automatic braking is available on only about 25% of all new vehicles. But, Rader predicted that more automakers will include the technology on their vehicles, based on the results of the new IIHS study.
One challenge in the testing is that often vehicles with front-crash prevention systems also have adaptive cruise control, which works like regular cruise control, but has sensors that track the vehicle in front to maintain a safe distance. According to the IIHS, “It is possible that some of the observed benefit for front crash prevention systems in avoiding rear-end collisions is actually a result of adaptive cruise control.” But while front crash protection is turned on all the time, adaptive cruise control needs to be activated each time a person drives and is not typically used for all types of driving.
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