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Warning Equipment Reduces Crashes While Reversing, IIHS Finds

Warning Equipment Reduces Crashes While Reversing, IIHS Finds

By Joseph Dobrian, February 26, 2018
Low-speed backing crashes—such as often occur in parking situations—are among the most common types of vehicle collision. They don’t often result in serious injury, but they can lead to expensive repairs, and can devastate a driver’s standing with the insurance company. Accordingly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has launched a rear crash-prevention ratings program, which the organization says will help consumers identify the models that are best equipped to prevent or mitigate low-speed reversing crashes.

Rear crash prevention usually entails a package of several features that a vehicle might feature as standard or optional equipment. These might include park-assist sensors, which issue warning beeps or cause the driver’s seat to vibrate if a vehicle gets too close to an object; cross-traffic alerts, which warn of approaching vehicles if you’re backing up; and rear automatic emergency braking systems, which go into action if the driver isn’t reacting to other alerts.

“Some days we all could use help backing up, whether that's in a garage with pillars that obscure your view, in a crowded mall parking lot, or on a busy downtown street,” said David Zuby, executive vice president and chief research officer at the IIHS. “The systems we rate in our first batch of tests will help reduce the chances of a backing fender-bender.”

IIHS engineers recently evaluated rear autobrake systems on six popular 2017 models: the BMW 5 Series sedan, Cadillac XT5 SUV, Infiniti QX60 SUV, Jeep Cherokee SUV, Subaru Outback wagon, and the Toyota Prius hatchback. The IIHS used a 3-tier rating scheme, in which they rated these vehicles’ optional or standard rear crash-prevention systems as Superior, Advanced, or Basic. The emergency brakes were rated through a series of car-to-car and car-to-pole tests with different approach angles. The availability of park-assist sensors and rear cross-traffic alert systems was also factored in.

For a Superior rating, a vehicle’s rear autobrake system must be able to avoid a crash or substantially reduce speeds in many of the test scenarios, which involve multiple runs at about 4 mph. The IIHS assigns points based on the number of runs that either avoid or barely hit the target, reducing speeds to less than one mile per hour. For an Advanced rating, the systems must avoid a crash or reduce speeds in some of the scenarios. Vehicles that only have parking sensors and/or rear cross-traffic alert systems earn a Basic rating.

The Outback and XT5 earn Superior ratings when equipped with optional rear autobrake, parking sensors, and rear cross-traffic alert. The Cherokee, 5 Series, QX60, and Prius earn Advanced ratings, similarly equipped.

The IIHS notes that the ratings evaluate the rear crash-prevention systems' ability to prevent damage in low-speed crashes, not their ability to mitigate injuries in crashes. But according to research by the IIHS and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), these technologies do prevent crashes. The combination of a rearview camera, rear park-assist sensors, and rear autobrake has reduced backing crashes reported to police by 78%, a new IIHS study of General Motors vehicles found. Rear autobrake systems from GM and Subaru also are reducing the frequency of claims reported to insurers, HLDI reported in August 2017.

Rear autobrake technology provides the biggest crash reductions, the IIHS reports, with parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert both contributing. However, rear autobrake isn't as prevalent in today’s vehicles as front autobrake. The feature is optional on only 5%, and standard on less than 1%, of 2018 model passenger vehicles, HLDI estimates. Rear cross-traffic alert is optional on 43% and standard on 11% of 2018 models. Rear park-assist sensors are standard on 33% and optional on 59% of 2018 models. Rearview cameras are standard on 89% and optional on 10% of 2018 models.

The IIHS also conducted four low-speed demonstration tests with and without rear autobrake, to get an idea of what damages can add up to, dollar-wise. With autobrake, no damage was incurred during these tests. Without autobrake, the XT5 needed an estimated $3,477 in repairs after backing into a pole. Damaged parts included the bumper cover, tailgate, hitch bar, energy absorber, rear body panel, trim, and assorted brackets. When the Outback backed into the rear bumper of a 2016 Chevrolet Cruze, the estimated damage for both cars came to $1,899: $1,159 for the Outback and $740 for the Cruze.

For complete rear crash-prevention ratings, visit:
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