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NTSB: If standard, collision-avoidance systems would save lives

The National Transportation Safety Board was created by Congress with a mandate to remain independent and objective. The agency has a number of responsibilities, among which are conducting objective, precise investigations of motor vehicle accidents of all kinds, performing safety studies, and making recommendations to Congress and other federal agencies to promote public safety in transportation.

The NTSB doesn't have the authority to enforce its safety recommendations, but the government really ought to take them seriously. They're the result of careful study, statistical analysis and policy considerations.

Recently, the agency issued a 60-page special investigation report called "The Use of Forward Collision Avoidance Systems to Prevent and Mitigate Rear-End Crashes," which calls for collision-avoidance systems to be made standard on all new passenger vehicles and commercial trucks in the U.S.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time the NTSB has called for these systems to be made standard equipment by law. The agency has issued 12 such recommendations over the past 20 years, but progress on the issue has been "very limited." That lack of progress, according to the agency, is a major safety issue in itself.

If collision-avoidance systems were standard equipment, over 1,000 lives could be saved each year

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end collisions are a lot more dangerous than you may realize: they're responsible for an average of about 1,700 deaths and 500,000 injuries every year. The NTSB estimates that around 80 percent of those crashes could be avoided -- or their severity could be mitigated -- if all the vehicles involved had forward collision-avoidance systems.

Unfortunately, only four models of passenger cars offered forward collision-avoidance systems as standard equipment last year. Why so few?

According to an industry group called the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, it ought to be up to the consumer to decide what safety technology they should pay for.

"You don't pay extra for your seat belt," responded the NTSB's chairman. "You shouldn't have to pay extra for technology that can help prevent a collision altogether."

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