Collision warning and auto braking greatly reduce heavy-truck crashes

Having a semi or other big truck suddenly looming large in your rearview mirror is an unsettling experience for drivers, especially given that commercial trucks can weigh 20-to-30 times as much as a passenger car or SUV. Unsurprisingly, if that truck hit you, there could be serious damage. Crashes in which large trucks plowed into the back of another vehicle resulted in 119 fatalities in 2018. However, like passenger cars, some large trucks are now equipped with forward-collision warning as well as automatic emergency braking. And a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that, when combined, those features reduce the number of collisions in which a truck rear-ends another vehicle by 44 percent. Trucks equipped solely with forward-collision warning were involved in 41 percent fewer rear-end collisions. And even crashes that weren’t avoided were often less severe.

The study examined records from 62 transport companies, looking at trucks weighing 33,000 pounds or more. It compared accident rates for trucks with forward-collision warning, with forward-collision warning and automatic-emergency braking, and with neither system.

“The potential benefits are great enough that these crash avoidance systems should be standard equipment in all new large trucks,” said IIHS president David Harkey in a statement. That has been the case in Europe since 2013, but there is no such mandate in the United States. Truck manufacturers aren’t following the lead of automakers in the U.S., either, which have pledged to equip nearly all new cars with the features as standard by 2022. Maybe the results of this study will spur heavy-truck manufacturers — or government regulators — to move in that direction.

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