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NTSB recommends federal mandate for active safety features

Agency says commercial vehicles and passenger cars should get standard collision-warning sensors, automatic braking and other new technologies.

By Claire_Martin Nov 14, 2012 12:27PM
Highway accident on Connecticut's Route 9 by RagesossRear-end collisions account for 28 percent of highway accidents. Lane changes cause 9 percent of such crashes, and so-called run-off-roads comprise 23 percent. It's because of these statistics that the National Transportation Safety Board is pressuring the federal government to mandate active safety features in passenger and commercial vehicles. 

"There are technologies that can work with the driver to improve driver reaction time," the agency wrote in a new report. "Lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking and electronic stability control have all been proven to aid drivers when they are faced with unexpected conditions, particularly when traveling at highway speeds or when operating larger commercial vehicles that require greater stopping distances." 

The report notes that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that such technologies may be able to prevent 879 fatal crashes annually for passenger vehicles and 115 fatal crashes annually for large trucks. 

As we wrote about this summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that active safety features could prevent up to 788,000 accidents each year. Yet NHTSA has yet to call for a similar mandate or institute a ratings system for the technologies. 

In reaching its proposed mandate, the NTSB factored in several accident reports for tanker trucks, tractor-trailers and buses -- a segment of the highway fleet that's been of particular concern to NHTSA in recent years. 

As it turns out, automakers have been increasingly using the safety features in trucks and luxury vehicles without any mandate. Daimler, for instance, uses "active brake assist" in its Mercedes-Benz Travego bus (below, watch how the Travego barely avoids crushing a C-Class). 
But the effectiveness of the technologies isn't unanimously celebrated. A recent IIHS study showed the use of forward-collision sensors and automated braking resulted in fewer accidents, but lane-departure sensors were mysteriously detrimental to drivers.

Still, the NTSB report pushes for widespread adoption. "Their full lifesaving and crash-avoidance potential will not be realized until supported by federal rule-making and related standards," the agency said.

[Sources: Automotive News, NTSB]
2Comments
Nov 14, 2012 12:44PM
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So we will make the cars do all the defensive driving for us? Sounds like a great idea. Now I can finally hold a soda with my turn signal hand, eat the burger with the steering hand, and talk to my buddy on the soon-to-be-required-by-law hands free text system with whats left of my concentration capacity. 
Personally I think all these safety systems are offensive in that they seem to mock that I don't know how to drive. And technologies that improve reaction time? How about dropping the phone- BAM there's 3 seconds.
Nov 16, 2012 10:03AM
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Oh great now the government wants to take over the pleasure of driving.....Can't wait to watch this house of cards our government is building falls!
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