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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates autobraking/braking assist systems based on their ability to cut crashes at 12 mph and 25 mph in tests, giving top marks to systems which can cut all but 2-3 mph out of the car's speed. (Provided by Insurance Institute of Highway Safety)

Can you weather losing 13% of repair volume? IIHS estimates autobraking cuts rear-ending 39%

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Business Practices | Market Trends | Repair Operations | Technology

A new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study revealed Thursday estimates that auto-braking paired with crash warnings can cut 39 percent of all rear-end crashes, which works out to about 13 percent of all the crashes in America.

Is your shop prepared to lose 13 percent of your crash volume? Because it’s coming — soon.

The IIHS study compared police-verified rear-ending rates of vehicles equipped with forward collision warning and autobraking and cars which didn’t.

Even the “low-tech” collision warnings alone cut crashes by 23 percent among the 22 states surveyed, the IIHS said. By our admittedly terrible math skills, that works out to be about 7.5 percent of all crashes.

One can argue factors like there’s plenty of crashes not reported to police, market conditions will vary, and the data sets were too small, but those are still pretty sobering statistics.

It gets even worse: The IIHS only looked at automobile-versus-automobile collisions. But as you’ve all seen, there’s plenty of other things bad drivers can hit out there, and automakers are working on vehicles which can stop for many of them, including pedestrians, large animals (including deer!) and even kangaroos.

Here’s some more food for thought, using the most recent Insurance Information Institute collision data set (2013), which uses data from the DOT and NHTSA:

  • Rear-end crashes: 32.3 percent of all crashes.
  • Collision with a fixed object (trees, guardrails, poles): 15.8 percent of all crashes
  • Collision with movable objects (parked cars, animals, etc.): 14 percent of all crashes.

Not all of these are going to be head-on collisions — guardrails, for example, seem like sideswipe candidates. But at a crude level, that works out to 62.1 percent of all crashes. (You can try and add up a more appropriate figure for your market area using specific conditions; for example, 4.8 percent of all crashes were vehicle vs. animal, according to the III.)

Plug the IIHS data into that tally for some even cruder back-of-the-napkin math, and we’re talking 24.2 percent of all crashes eliminated by autobraking technology available today. If for some reason every OEM and driver gave up on autobraking tomorrow and just used forward collision warnings, that’s about 14.3 percent of all crashes gone.

Ten OEMs have pledged to make autobraking standard in the near future (Volvo thinks it can eliminate all deaths in the Swedish cars by 2020, which might be a reach), and the emphasis organizations like the IIHS and competitors have placed on it probably means they’ll make good.

There’s not a “due date” for the standardization announced in September for Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. However, many of these already planned to offer it standard or as an option in the 2016 model year.

However, there are two silver linings: Severity will rise — when a crash slips through, the tech to be replaced and recalibrated probably won’t be cheap, though there are signs other damage could be reduced — and the ultimate benefit: you and your loved ones will be safer. (The subset of crashes with injuries fell even more than total crashes.)

“The success of front crash prevention represents a big step toward safer roads,” IIHS chief research officer David Zuby said in a statement. “As this technology becomes more widespread, we can expect to see noticeably fewer rear-end crashes. The same goes for the whiplash injuries that often result from these crashes and can cause a lot of pain and lost productivity.”

(Also, the medical bills insurers really hate. Maybe that means they’ll be more tolerant of the shop side of the loss ratio.)

More information:

“CRASHES AVOIDED: Front crash prevention slashes police-reported rear-end crashes”

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Status Report, Jan. 28, 2016

“Effectiveness of Forward Collision Warning Systems with and without Autonomous Emergency Braking in Reducing Police-Reported Crash Rates”

IIHS, January 2016

Crash data compiled by Insurance Information Institute

Insurance Information Institute, updated 2016

Featured image: A new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study revealed Thursday estimates that auto-braking paired with crash warnings can cut 39 percent of all rear-end crashes, which works out to about 13 percent of all the crashes in America.