Car Safety Tech Really Does Cut Number of Rear-End Crashes Drastically

Technology to step in for distracted drivers—forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking—proves worthwhile in the real world.

volvo xc90

• A new study shows a significant reduction in rear-end collisions for vehicles equipped with forward collision warning together with automatic emergency braking.
• Other advanced driver-assistance systems had less dramatic but still notable real-world results.
• The study looked at vehicles from the 2015 through 2020 model years.

You're half as likely to get hit from behind if the car following you is equipped with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. That's the major takeaway from a new study whose results were recently announced. Forward collision warning (FCW) combined with automated emergency braking (AEB) reduced the incidence of rear-end collisions by 49 percent. It's not just low-speed crashes that are prevented—the technology reduced serious injury crashes of this type by 42 percent.

The auto industry has been enthusiastic about adopting these safety systems already. In 2016, 20 automakers issued a statement vowing to make AEB standard on all vehicles, and the current study was conducted by PARTS (Partnership for Analytics Research in Traffic Safety), described as a data-sharing partnership between the U.S. Department of Transportation and eight automakers. The study also looked at other advanced driver-assist systems, and there the results were less dramatic. Vehicles equipped with lane-departure warning (LDW) and lane-keeping assist (LKA) were less likely to be involved in single-car collisions where the vehicle stuck an object alongside the road, but the reduction was only 8 percent. Adding lane centering marginally increased the effectiveness, bringing the drop to 9 percent.

The study also looked at pedestrian-detection systems and their ability to reduce incidents of vehicles hitting pedestrians, but the data were inconclusive, possibly due to the small number of vehicles so equipped.

The study used police-reported crash data from 13 states, for crashes that occurred between January 2016 and August 2021. More recently, earlier this fall AAA cautioned that the safety systems can't completely protect vehicles from rear-end crashes, particularly those that happen at higher speeds in the 40-mph range and up, so this technology doesn't mean you'll never be rear-ended again.

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