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Federal Regulators Seek to Put the Brakes on Rear-End Collisions

The U.S Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) has announced that the agency will update its 5-Star Rating System to include automatic emergency braking (“AEB”) as a recommended safety technology, beginning with model year 2018. AEB technology is intended to prevent rear-end collisions by automatically engaging a car’s brakes when the system detects a possible collision through the use of radar, cameras, or lasers.

Rear-end crashes are among the most common types of accidents that occur on U.S. highways, accounting for about a third of all motor vehicle accidents and killing approximately 1,700 people each year. It is estimated that automatic braking technology can reduce rear-end collisions by up to 80%.

In a statement released to the press, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx declared, “We are adding automatic emergency braking features to the 5-Star Rating System because crash-avoidance technologies can save lives and should be widely accessible. AEB can substantially enhance safety, especially with the number of distracted drivers on the road.”

There are two types of AEB systems: crash imminent braking and dynamic brake support. Crash imminent braking works by automatically applying the brakes when a driver is unaware that a rear-end collision is about to occur. Dynamic brake support, on the other hand, automatically increases a car’s braking power when the driver is applying the brakes, but not strongly enough to prevent a rear-end collision from occurring. Both of these technologies have been available on certain makes and models in the United States since 2006, when Acura began selling the RL model with an automatic braking option.

According to Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports, “Forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking is the biggest safety advancement since the introduction of stability control over two decades ago.”

In September, the NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced that the following ten automobile manufacturers have committed to making AEB a standard feature on all new vehicles: Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo. These auto companies accounted for 57% of all U.S. auto sales in 2014.

While the cost to consumers for automatic emergency braking varies among the different car companies, prices will undoubtedly drop as the technology becomes more widely used. Honda, for example, currently charges $1,000 for a safety package available with its Accord and Pilot models that includes automatic emergency braking. Toyota and Lexus charge several hundred for an automatic emergency braking option that is available on several of the company’s models. The 2016 Scion iA will reportedly be the first car with an MSRP below $18,000 to offer automatic braking technology as a standard feature.

Because the technology is relatively new, it is still prone to glitches. Last month, Toyota recalled 31,000 Avalons and Lexus ES models because the company found that the automatic braking systems could inadvertently apply the brakes during normal driving conditions by misinterpreting a steel joint or plate in a highway as an obstacle on the road.

Since 2011, the NHTSA has been recommending that car companies sell vehicles with advanced safety technology features, such as electronic stability control, lane departure warnings, and rear-end collision warnings. Beginning in model year 2019, rearview video systems will be required to come standard on all new light vehicles. Moreover, the NHTSA is working on a proposal to require car companies to install vehicle-to-vehicle safety communications in new cars.

According to Transportation Secretary Foxx, “We are entering a new era of vehicle safety, focusing on preventing crashes from occurring, rather than just protecting occupants when crashes happen.”

Automatic emergency braking technology could have a big impact on making the roads in New Jersey safer. According to the most recent government statistics, 508 fatal collisions occurred on the roads and highways of New Jersey in 2013, resulting in 542 deaths. The car accident attorneys at Seigel Law have experience handling lawsuits involving all types of motor vehicle accidents, including rear-end collisions and truck accidents. If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, please do not hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation to learn about your legal rights and options.

To educate the public, the NHTSA made a video showing how automatic emergency braking technology can prevent rear-end collisions:

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