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Study shows rear autobrakes really reduce backing crashes

If you are a regular reader of these weekly articles on traffic law and traffic safety, you know my position on backing crashes: We back our vehicles about one-tenth of 1% of the time, yet backing crashes exceed 10% of all crashes. In other words, we drivers are not very good at backing up our vehicles safely.

Now, from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, new studies show the updated rear automatic emergency braking (AEB) analysis adds insurance data for model year 2015-18 Subaru vehicles, with and without the feature, to an earlier analysis of 2014-15 General Motors vehicles. The researchers found that vehicles equipped with rear AEB had 28% fewer property damage liability claims and 10% fewer collision claims across the two manufacturers. “We haven’t seen that kind of reduction in claims for vehicle and other property damage from any other advanced driver assistance system,” says Highway Loss Data Institute Senior Vice President Matt Moore.

“Backing crashes generally happen at lower speeds than front-to rear crashes,” Moore says. “That means they’re less dangerous, but the costs from vehicle damage can add up.”

Both front and rear AEB use sensors like cameras or radar to detect when the vehicle is getting too close to an obstacle. When they do, they automatically apply the brakes to avoid or mitigate collisions. IIHS tests and rates both systems. Only front crash prevention performance is a criterion for the institute’s Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards.

HLDI also found that two other features designed to prevent backing crashes, parking sensors and rear cameras, which are both more common than rear AEB, were much less effective. Data from seven other manufacturers showed that rear cameras reduced the frequency of property damage liability claims by 5% and actually increased the frequency of collision claims slightly, though that increase was not statistically significant. Parking sensors also reduced the frequency of property damage liability claims by 5% and reduced the frequency of collision claims by 1%.

“Claims data show that collision avoidance technologies that automatically intervene to prevent or mitigate crashes are more effective than warning-based systems,” says Moore, noting that forward collision warning is also associated with smaller claims reductions than front AEB. Aside from rear AEB, front AEB and forward collision warning are the only stand-alone driver assistance features analyzed by HLDI that show double-digit percent reductions in claim frequency under any type of coverage.

The takeaway from this study seems to be to pick a new (or used vehicle) that is equipped with a rear automatic emergency braking system — it is likely to be worth it.

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