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Should collision-avoidance systems become standard issue? Part II

In our post last week, we began a discussion about safety features in automobiles. Specifically, the safety features we tend to take for granted (like seat belts and air bags) were once optional add-ons for which car buyers paid a premium. Through common-sense regulatory efforts, however, truly crucial safety features have become standard in all new vehicles.

The National Transportation Safety Board has been recommending similar measures for one piece of safety equipment for the past two decades, with little success. Collision avoidance systems are becoming ever more sophisticated, and the NTSB recently reiterated its recommendation that these systems become standard features in all newly manufactured passenger and commercial vehicles.

There are different subsets of collision avoidance systems (forward collisions, for instance), but all work in similar ways. Sensors or cameras mounted on the exterior of the car warn drivers when a crash is likely. If drivers do not respond quickly enough, the vehicle can actually assist the driver with braking to avoid or mitigate the effects of a crash.

The NTSB has said that preventing and mitigating rear-end collisions needs to be an especially high priority. The agency cites data showing that rear-end crashes injure approximately 500,000 people per year and kill an additional 1,700. While standard-issue collision avoidance systems would reduce the number of rear-end crashes, they would also reduce collision severity in more than 80 percent of such crashes, according to NTSB estimates.

Collision avoidance technology already exists and continues to get better all the time. But the problem is that as long as automakers classify it an optional feature (and charge more money for it), too few Americans will have access to it. Even if a person has the extra money, it is difficult to justify paying several thousand dollars more for a new car.

Some vehicle extras will always (and should always) be considered luxury items. Not everyone needs heated seats or a high-end stereo system. But for truly life-saving features, like collision avoidance systems, "optional" needs to become standard.

Source: USA Today, "NTSB calls for collision avoidance systems on all cars," Todd Spangler, June 9, 2015

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