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Crash prevention systems: Working well, with a promising future

The streets of New York are so busy and congested that most people see traffic accidents as an unavoidable consequence of living in the city. But could we ever hope to eliminate car crashes, pedestrian and bicyclist accidents? Technology currently in use today is promising, and could potentially be a way to reach that lofty goal in the future.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently published a report on the effectiveness of front crash prevention systems. Specifically, the IIHS examined systems that both detected/warned of an impending crash and could automatically put on the brakes if drivers didn't respond in time. After studying police-reported data on rear-end crashes, the IIHS found that front crash prevention systems reduce the rate of these crashes by about 40 percent.

If all vehicles had been equipped with this technology in 2013, the agency said, "there would have been at least 700,000 fewer police-reported rear-end crashes" that year.

For the study, the IIHS focused only on crashes that specifically involved the front of one vehicle smashing into the back of another one. This is technically the type of crash that these systems are designed to prevent, and the auto-brake is one of the most important components. But why couldn't this system of sensing danger and automatically braking be adapted for protection against all impending collisions?

It's possible that the technology we have today is not sophisticated enough to prevent all types of collisions, including automobile collisions involving bicyclists and pedestrians. But considering how effective front crash prevention systems have proven to be so far, there is reason to be hopeful that we could one day live in a city free of traffic accidents.

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