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U.S. Dept. of Transportation to Require Automatic Braking for Vehicle Top Safety Rating

Starting in 2018, vehicle manufacturers who want their products to be top-rated in safety by government officials will need to ensure automatic emergency braking (AEB) comes standard.

That was the announcement by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), several weeks after a commitment from 10 car companies that promised to voluntarily add the feature to all new models.

To be clear: The NHTSA’s 5-Star Rating system isn’t mandatory. However, vehicles that score poorly in the government testing that guides those ratings tend to be shunned by consumers. In other words, a good safety rating is good for business.

In case you aren’t familiar, AEB systems work without driver intervention to avoid crashes. Sometimes referred to as “forward collision avoidance” technology, the systems tend to be most effective in prevention of rear-end collisions, where the driver in the rear fails to brake in time to avoid striking the vehicle ahead. Using radars, cameras, sensors and driver inputs, the system can independently determine when a crash may be imminent. When that happens, the system will issue an audible alert to the driver. If the driver fails to respond appropriately, the vehicle will engage an automatic brake to help avoid a traffic collision.

The agency has said that while there had long been plans in the works to make this move, it has chosen to accelerate the timeline. This move was first proposed by the the DOT back in 2011.

This kind of technology is especially critical, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, in an era when drivers are more distracted than ever. In Florida, it is estimated that 1 in every 4 crashes occurs as a result of distraction. Florida – like most other states – bans text messaging while driving. But just because F.S. 316.305 is on the books doesn’t necessarily stop people from doing it.

AEB may be one way to help with the issue.

Also proposed by the NHTSA is a petition for rulemaking that would require AEB technology in large, commercial trucks. That was filed last month, motivated in no small part to a tragic crash on a Georgia interstate, where a tractor-trailer navigating stop-and-go traffic failed to stop, smashing into a car full of undergraduate nursing students who were just beginning their clinical rotations in their first year of nursing school. Five of the students were killed.

Had AEB technology been installed in the truck, officials say, it would have been able to detect the threat from 650 feet ahead, and engaged the brakes, helping to either avoid minimize the impact or avoid the crash entirely. The European Union’s rule that the feature be on all commercial trucks went into effect Nov. 1, 2015.

Industry experts say it’s not a question of if but when the AEB will become standard for large trucks. The good news is that when it does, because of the shortened life cycle of larger vehicles, the new technology would be fairly quickly integrated into commercial fleets.

Previously advanced safety technologies added to the 5-Star Rating checklist were lane departure warnings and electronic stability control.

So too was rearview video systems, which will be mandated as standard equipment in all light new lightweight vehicles by 2019.

Manufacturers of AEB systems say commercial customers report 60- to 80-percent reductions in rear-end collisions. The NHTSA says the technology as applied to lightweight vehicles could save 1,700 lives each year.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

U.S. DOT to add automatic emergency braking to list of recommended advanced safety technologies in 5-Star Rating system, Nov. 2, 2015, Press Release, NHTSA

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Wood v. Wood – Suing a Family Member After an Auto Accident, Nov. 10, 2015, Palm Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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