Are Collision Avoidance Systems Reducing Rear-End Accidents?

Rear-end collisions are the most common type of motor vehicle accident that can happen. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that rear-end crashes account for 29% of all collisions that occur in the U.S. Because of the frequency with which these types of collisions occur, car manufacturers have focused on developing safety technology designed to prevent them from happening. While many newer vehicles have collision avoidance systems installed, you might wonder whether these types of technology have helped to decrease the incidence of rear-end crashes and their resulting injuries and fatalities.

Understanding Collision Avoidance Systems

Collision avoidance systems are safety technology systems that are designed to help motorists avoid collisions. Some of the types of collision avoidance systems that are available as options on newer vehicles include the following:

  • Forward collision warning systems – Detect objects and vehicles in front of a car while the car is moving forward and alerts the motorist of a potential collision
  • Automatic emergency brake systems – Detect objects and potential collisions when a vehicle is moving forward and automatically applies the breaks to lessen the severity of an impact or to prevent it altogether
  • Active cruise control systems – Regulate braking and acceleration to maintain a safe distance between the motorist’s car and the car in front of it
  • High-speed automatic emergency brake systems – Apply brakes automatically when vehicles are traveling at highway speeds to reduce the severity of a crash or prevent it altogether
  • Pedestrian detection systems – Detect pedestrians and alerts the motorist with a warning sound and engages the automatic brakes if the car is too close to the pedestrian
  • Front-cross traffic system – Detect vehicles by using sensors
  • Lane departure warning systems – track the position of the vehicle within the lane of traffic and issues an alert if the vehicle gets too close to the line
  • Lane-keeping assistance systems – Maintain steering within the driving lane

Highway Loss Data Institute Study of BMW Models

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) conducted a study of how well collision-avoidance systems installed in 2013 to 2017 BMW vehicles worked to prevent collisions, injuries, and property damage in Dec. 2019. They found a significant reduction in the rates of accident claims filed by owners of BMW models with collision-avoidance technology installed. This demonstrates that the technology could potentially reduce the rates of auto accidents and injuries.

The HLDI study looked at the collision avoidance systems included in BMW models from 2013 to 2017 and how those systems affected insurance claims. Researchers looked at four different types of collision avoidance systems in the BMW vehicles, including the following:

  • Vehicles with a combination of forward collision and lane departure warning systems through the manufacturer’s forward alerts package
  • Vehicles with a combination of lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency brake systems through BMW’s forward alerts and automatic braking package
  • Vehicles with a combination of automatic brakes, forward alerts, and active cruise control systems through BMW’s driving assistance package
  • Vehicles with everything included in the driver assistance package combined with lane-keeping assistance and front cross-traffic systems through BMW’s driving assistance plus package

Out of the four collision avoidance packages, three showed reduced rates of accident claims. BMW’s forward alerts and automatic brake package showed a reduction in claim rates for collisions by 5%. It also showed a reduction in injury claims by 16% and property damage-only claims by 11%.

BMW models with the driving assistance package showed a reduction in claim rates for collisions by 6%. They also had a reduced injury claim rate of 37% and a reduction of property damage claims by 27%. Vehicles with the driving assistance plus package installed showed a reduction of accident claims and bodily injury claims by 7% and of property damage claims by 26%.

By contrast, vehicles with the forward alerts package installed showed an increase in all three types of claims. They showed an increase of 2% in accident claims, 5% in property damage claims, and 11% in injury claims. However, the researchers noted that these increases were different from those found in their studies of systems made by other manufacturers.

The sample size used by HDLI was very large and included 30,000 with driving assistance and forward collision warning systems without automatic emergency brakes, 120,000 with BMW’s driving assistance plus package, and 550,000 that included a combination of forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems.

Earlier Crash Avoidance System Study

An earlier study conducted by HDLI together with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) examined the accident rates of vehicles with collision avoidance systems and compared them to vehicles that did not have them installed. They found that vehicles with forward-collision warning systems had a 27% reduction in rear-end collisions overall, a 20% reduction in rear-end accidents causing injuries, and a 9% reduction in property damage claims for damage to other cars. They also found that vehicles with forward-collision warning systems showed a reduction of 16% of claims filed by people in other vehicles for their injuries.

The results for a combination of automatic emergency brakes and forward collision warning systems were even more promising. The researchers found that a combination of these two types of collision avoidance systems decreased rear-end collision claims by 50% and rear-end injury claims by 56%. They also found a 13% reduced claim rate for property damage to other cars and 23% for injuries caused to people occupying other vehicles.

Why It Is Important to Reduce the Incidence of Rear-End Collisions

While rear-end collisions are common types of accidents, they can also result in serious injuries or fatalities. Some of the common types of injuries people can suffer in rear-end accidents include whiplash injuries, head and back injuries, and injuries to other parts of the body.

Whiplash injuries are injuries to the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other tissues of the neck and shoulders. They can occur when a person’s head and neck are forcefully propelled forward by the impact. As the force of the impact subsides, the person’s head and neck will then be propelled backward and can overextend. This violent back-and-forth movement can cause damage to the tissues and multiple symptoms, including the following:

  • Stiffness
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Loss of the range of movement
  • Headaches
  • Tinnitus
  • Pain radiating down the arm and hand

Depending on the severity of a whiplash injury, recovery might take a few weeks or multiple months. Some people suffer complications of whiplash, including chronic pain and depression.

In severe rear-end collisions, some people might also suffer from head and back injuries, including traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries. These types of injuries might leave the victims facing disabilities or potentially cause death.

Many other areas of the body can be injured in rear-end accidents. Rear-end collisions can be devastating. People who are injured in rear-end accidents should consult an experienced accident attorney to learn about their legal rights and their ability to pursue compensation.

Availability of Collision Avoidance Technology

While the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that all manufacturers include certain types of collision avoidance systems as standard on their vehicles, these types of systems are still either optional or unavailable on many makes and models. Consumer Reports publishes a list of makes and models and the various types of collision avoidance systems they include as standard or optional features that you can review.

It’s also important to note that some collision avoidance systems work better than others. For example, some forward-collision warning systems detect pedestrians and other objects while others do not. It is a good idea to research the effectiveness of the collision avoidance systems offered by various manufacturers when you are in the market for vehicles to choose the vehicles that offer the best protection.

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