Study Highlights Shortcomings in Front Crash Prevention Systems

Person driving in a new high tech luxury car with front crash prevention system.

Recent advancements in automotive safety technology have led to significant improvements in preventing rear-end collisions and other car accidents. However, two new studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reveal a critical gap in these systems' effectiveness. That includes the effectiveness of front crash prevention systems in preventing collisions with large trucks and motorcycles.

Can vehicle technology prevent car accidents?

Most front crash prevention systems come with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB). These features have been helpful in reducing crash rates. These systems have decreased rear-end crash rates with medium or heavy trucks by 38% and with motorcycles by 41%. That's compared to a 53% reduction with other passenger vehicles.

Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president of research, highlights the impressive reductions. However, she points out that they should be equally effective for large trucks and motorcycles. Cicchino notes an estimated additional 5,500 crashes with medium or heavy trucks and 500 crashes with motorcycles could be prevented annually.

Unique risks of motorcycles and large trucks

According to earlier IIHS research, a passenger vehicle strikes the back of a medium or heavy truck or motorcycle in roughly 43% of all fatal rear-end collisions. That's despite another passenger vehicle being struck in 97% of overall rear-end collisions.

“Motorcycles and large trucks present unique risks,” said Cicchino. “Along with being hard for other drivers to see, motorcycles don’t have a steel frame surrounding and protecting the rider the way cars do. At the other end of the spectrum, large trucks are so massive that when a passenger vehicle hits one, it’s more likely to be fatal to the people inside the passenger vehicle. The height of large trucks can also result in dangerous underride crashes.”

Real-world effectiveness of front crash prevention systems

Cicchino and IIHS Senior Research Scientist David Kidd gauged the real-world effectiveness of modern front crash prevention systems, referring to police-reported crash data in 18 states from 2017 to 2021.

They compared rear-end collision rates of passenger vehicles with model years from 2016 to 2020 with and without AEB and forward collision warning. They examined what happened when a struck vehicle was a passenger vehicle, motorcycle, or a medium or heavy truck.

Cicchino and Kidd found a link between crash prevention and a reduction in rear-end collisions. This includes:

  • 53% fewer rear-end collisions involving another passenger vehicle
  • 38% fewer rear-end collisions with medium or heavy trucks
  • 41% fewer rear-end collisions

Uptick in new vehicles with forward collision warning, AEB

A decade ago, forward collision warning, AEB, and other safety features were rare in vehicles. Today, thanks to a joint effort by IIHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost every new passenger vehicle comes with these features. This advancement has led to the majority of tested vehicles attaining the Institute's top rating of superior in vehicle-to-vehicle evaluations.

To address the high-speed rear-end crashes and ensure effectiveness against diverse vehicle types like large trucks and motorcycles, the IIHS has conducted a new vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention evaluation.

In preparation for this, the IIHS collaborated with Transport Canada to study the responsiveness of various front crash prevention systems to different vehicles and surrogate targets. The study involved five 2021-22 models from Acura, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo. it also tested their reaction to a range of 12 non-passenger and seven-passenger vehicle surrogates at speeds of 31, 37, and 44 mph.

Challenges with forward crash prevention systems

The findings revealed that while these systems are effective in detecting standard passenger cars, their performance diminishes when it comes to larger vehicles or motorcycles. The test vehicles showed reduced alertness in imminent collisions with larger or motorcycle targets.

That's due to the smaller, narrower build of motorcycles, which poses a challenge for camera- and radar-based systems, especially at higher speeds. Conversely, while large vehicles might be easier to detect, their dimensions seemed to confuse the system algorithms.

The effectiveness of these systems was further highlighted in trials involving standard passenger car targets. Forward collision warnings were issued in approximately 90% of cases. However, the rate of warnings dropped when approaching a school bus, fire truck, tractor-trailer, or dry van trailer. Warnings occurred in less than 80% of the trials and further declined to about 70% with motorcycle targets.

Injured in a crash in Texas or Oklahoma? We can help

While front crash prevention systems can help mitigate the risk of a car accident, they're not foolproof. Drivers still have an obligation to stay fully attentive and in control behind the wheel. When they fail to do so and cause someone's injury, they can be held accountable for the victim's losses.

If you or a loved one was injured in a collision, speak to an experienced car accident attorney at Hoover Rogers Law, LLP to review your potential legal options. We'll help you navigate your car accident claim or lawsuit, gather the facts to build your case, and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve.

Focus on healing and let us handle the rest. To get started, contact us online or call our law offices in Wichita Falls, Texas, or Lawton, Oklahoma.

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