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Safer cars are coming soon, and drivers will have a new kind of braking system to thank for it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced in March that it has received a commitment from the top twenty automakers in the United States to install automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems as a standard feature on their cars. The enhancement is scheduled to take place no later than September 1, 2022. The goal of making AEB systems standard is to reduce the number of rear-end car accidents.
AEB systems come in two forms. They are designed to either provide more braking when a driver isn’t slowing down quickly enough or to brake entirely on their own when a driver isn’t slowing at all. An AEB system uses information from sensors in a vehicle combined with its on-board computers to determine when a collision risk exists and to take appropriate action. These systems are a natural evolution of other vehicle technologies including anti-lock brakes, which have been available on many vehicles since the 1990s, and collision avoidance systems, which are now available on about half of all passenger vehicle models.
The NHTSA estimates that more than half a million Americans are injured and around 1,700 killed each year because of rear-end crashes. The agency believes that nearly 90 percent of these injuries and fatalities could be prevented or reduced in severity if every vehicle was equipped with a collision avoidance system (including AEB). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also expects a huge improvement: Their projections are that up to 20 percent of all crashes could be prevented—almost one million crashes per year.
The AEB rollout will happen first on cars and light trucks of up to 8,500 pounds. That covers essentially all passenger vehicles on the road today, as well as most vans and many pickups. By 2025, however, manufacturers have committed to also include AEB on the majority of heavier vehicles (up to 10,000 pounds), not including semis and other large commercial vehicles, which both the government and the trucking industry are addressing.
This commitment from automakers is a new approach. The NHTSA and the Department of Transportation chose to work with manufacturers and the IIHS rather than impose mandatory regulation in the hope that it would streamline the process and bring safety benefits to consumers more quickly. By its own estimate, if the NHTSA had made AEB mandatory through regulation, it would have taken until at least 2025 to reach the target now anticipated for 2022. During those three years, the NHTSA calculates that an additional 28,000 crashes and 12,000 injuries would have happened. “It’s a win for safety and a win for consumers,” said Anthony Foxx, United States Transportation Secretary.
Cars are much safer than they used to be, in large part due to improved safety technology. The absolute number of traffic injuries and deaths has hovered around an all-time low since 2009 and has dropped close to 40 percent since the peak in the late 1970s. As a share of population, the number is down by 50 percent or more, while per mile traveled, motorists are three times safer than they were in the 1970s. New features such as AEB might improve safety another 20 percent over a decade, but these numbers might not go much lower until the ultimate safety risk—the driver—is removed from the equation by self-driving vehicles.
If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a car accident, you are urged to contact the attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. An Indianapolis car accident lawyer from WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
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