Many of the passenger vehicles on sale in Pennsylvania and around the country are available with automatic braking and forward impact warning systems. This technology is primarily designed to prevent rear-end collisions, and crash testing has revealed it to be extremely capable. A team of researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety wanted to find out how well automatic braking systems work in the real world. Their findings seem to support the view that this technology can prevent thousands of accidents and injuries each year.

The IIHS team studied police investigations into rear-end collisions involving General Motors vehicles manufactured between 2013 and 2015. They then used a list of automobile serial numbers provided by GM to determine which of these vehicles were equipped with forward warning and automatic braking systems. GM began offering this technology on its sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks in 2013.

The researchers discovered that vehicles with automatic emergency braking were involved in about 40 percent fewer collisions. When accidents did occur, they were far less severe and caused fewer injuries. Rear-end collisions involving injuries were 64 percent lower among vehicles equipped with the automatic safety systems, and the technology prevented accidents that injured third parties 68 percent of the time. Auto manufacturers say that all passenger vehicles sold in the United States will be equipped with these systems by 2022, but government regulators have not announced any plans to make fulfilling this promise mandatory.

Drivers are required to maintain safe distances at all times, and rear-end collisions are usually blamed on motorists who ignore this rule and strike the rear of the vehicles ahead of them. When pursuing lawsuits on behalf of road users who have suffered injuries in such crashes, experienced personal injury attorneys may use the conclusions reached by accident investigators to establish negligence and liability in court.