The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says the government should require automakers to make the latest collision prevention technologies standard equipment on all new cars and trucks.   The NTSB argues that the move that could reduce fatal highway accidents by more than one half. 

The NTSB is recommending the technologies include lane departure warning, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking and electronic stability control.  While these technologies are already available on many cars and trucks they are primarily limited to higher-end models. The NTSB said they be should required on all vehicles, despite the auto industry’s concern that doing so would add thousands of dollars to the cost of a new car. The NTSB says require such technologies to be standard equipment would prevent accidents involving running off the road, rear-ending other vehicles and lane-change maneuvers.  Those are accidents that account for up to 60 percent of all fatal highway injury accidents. In the year 2010 more than 32,000 traffic deaths were reported in the United States alone including 821 in the State of Missouri.

The NTSB says the Obama administration “should establish performance standards where still needed and mandate that these technologies be included as standard equipment in cars and commercial vehicles alike.  With such promising potential to improve highway safety, this technology should be robustly deployed throughout the passenger and commercial fleets.”

Electronic stability control, which automatically applies brakes to individual wheels to restore control, is already required for new passenger vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds. But large pickup trucks, 15-passenger vans and commercial trucks that exceed that weight aren’t included in the requirement.

Lane departure warnings alert drivers when a car wanders into another lane without signaling.  Adaptive cruise control uses sensors to read traffic conditions and regulates the throttle and braking system to keep the car a safe distance from the vehicle in front of it.  Forward collision warning systems monitor the road in front of the vehicle and warn the driver of an impending collision.  In addition, forward-collision systems are designed to apply the brakes if the driver doesn’t take action to avoid an imminent collision.  Similarly, automatic braking applies brakes to avoid an impending collision with another vehicle, person or obstacle.

Additionally, the board is recommending including tire-pressure monitoring systems and speed-limiting technology for commercial trucks.

Systems that warn drivers of an impending collision but don’t automatically brake cost about $1,000 to $3,000 per vehicle depending on the features, according government estimates cited by the Alliance of Auto Manufacturer.   The systems that both warn the driver of an impending collision and apply the brakes if the driver doesn’t act first, cost about $3,500, the alliance said.  Of major concern, however, is maintaining affordability of new vehicles in the still fragile economy.  The average price of a new vehicle is $30,000 which is more than half the median income in the United States.  However, if the safety technologies became standard on all vehicles, the cost per vehicle would come down, safety advocates said.

The NTSB board says that some of the technology can be done for literally just a few dollars because many of the safety features rely on the same electronic sensors and computers.

“While it sounds like a lot of items, basically you are taking advantage of the sophisticated electronics in all modern automobiles,” Ditlow said. “Why limit major safety improvements to a few primarily luxury models?  The entire public deserves them.”