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Deadliest semi truck crashes could nearly halve with automatic emergency braking

A new study from the IIHS showed AEB and forward collision alert technology reduced semi rear-end crashes by 40%.

Semi truck
Semi truck crashes killed over 4,000 people in 2018.
5m3photos/Getty Images

The benefits of forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking systems are well known these days. The technology provides two safeguards for drivers who may simply not react in time or don't devote their full attention to the road. Most studies, however, have involved their benefits to passenger cars

The benefits extend to semi trucks. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released its latest study on AEB and forward collision alert systems on Thursday, which solely focused on semis that weigh at least 30,000 pounds. Although semi trucks crash less often than cars, the crashes can be more deadly due to their weight. And semis rear-ending other vehicles is a common occurrence when they're involved in a crash.

According to the study, semi truck drivers could avoid 40% of rear-end crashes if the vehicle was equipped with both active safety features. Semis equipped with forward collision alerts experienced 44% fewer rear-end crashes, and 40% fewer in trucks equipped with AEB. Trucks experienced 22% and 12% fewer crashes respectively with the technologies.

The IIHS looked at 2,000 crashes that occurred between 2017-2019 to get a picture of how the technologies can potentially save lives. Overall, crashes in the US involving semis have risen by 33% since they hit a low in 2009. The most recent statistics show over 4,000 people died in crashes involving semis in 2018, and 119 of them involved a rear-end crash.

Today, there are no regulations mandating AEB for passenger cars or semi trucks. A voluntary agreement, however, covering every major automaker will see most passenger vehicles outfitted with the tech come 2022. Semis are a different story, though the IIHS pointed out the technology's been standard on trucks in the European Union for seven years now. The IIHS believes it's past time for the US to do the same.

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