Fuel Smarts

NTSB Calls for Collision Warning Standards

May 06, 2001

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The National Transportation Safety Board is renewing its call for putting collision warning systems on trucks.

There still is work to be done on the systems – they need performance standards and the public needs to be educated on how they perform – but they can protect against rear-end collisions, the agency said in its recommendations to the Department of Transportation.
The safety hazard of rear-end collisions is significant, the agency said in a report released last week. Rear-end collisions involving all types of vehicles increased by 19% between 1992 and 1998. In 1999, some 30% of the fatal accidents in work zones were rear-end collisions – and 62% of them involved commercial vehicles.
"Accident consequences are more severe when commercial vehicles are involved in rear-end collisions" – and the warning systems can help, the agency said.
NTSB, which only has the power to make recommendations and cannot write rules, has been lobbying for collision warning systems since 1995. In this report it notes that industry has begun to offer a variety of systems, including collision warning and adaptive cruise control, but says that not enough is being done on testing and standards development.
Collision warning systems sound an alarm when the vehicle approaches an obstacle too quickly. The cruise control systems take over control of the throttle if an obstacle is looming.
The safety agency recommended that the Department of Transportation set performance standards for cruise control and collision warning systems for new trucks and other commercial vehicles, as well as for cars. The standard should cover operating characteristics such as the distance that the device "sees," timing of alerts and the mode and type of warning.
After it sets standards, DOT should require manufacturers to install the devices in all new commercial vehicles, NTSB said.
The agency called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to work with other federal agencies and industry groups on a campaign to educate the public on the use and benefits of the systems. And it urged American Trucking Assns., the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Assn. and the National Private Truck Council to encourage their members to train their drivers in the systems.

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