The first safety feature that was designed specifically to reduce rear-end collisions was the third brake light, which was introduced in 1986. Technology continues to provide better safety features for vehicles so that such crashes can be avoided, or, if they do occur, will result in fewer serious injuries.
Adding up the numbers
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatal injuries from rear-end collisions rose from 4.6 percent to 5.2 percent between 1988—the first year that data was collected—and 2014. Injuries in such crashes also rose from 24.9 percent to 28.7 percent. However, between 1986 and 1991, there were 5 percent fewer rear-enders involving 1986 model vehicles equipped with the third brake light.
Factors that determine injury
In a rear-end collision, the headrest offers the best protection for the head and neck. However, the position of the head at impact is an important consideration; for example, if the occupant of the vehicle is looking to the right or left, the injury suffered will be more pronounced on the side to which the head is turned. The impact of the crash causes the head to snap forward and backward with possible injuries to the neck, brain and spinal column. If the driver anticipates a collision, he or she will likely tense up so that the muscles will likely receive the most severe injuries. Also, the passenger in the front seat is exposed to more injuries than the driver, who can brace him or herself by holding onto the wheel.
Crash avoidance features
Cars today have airbags, which, during impact, absorb much of the energy that would otherwise have been transferred to the occupants of the vehicle. Many people who are in the market for a new car are interested in the new technology available in the ABS or Automatic Braking System, which goes into action during an impending crash. The National Transportation Safety Board reports that almost half of all accidents involving two vehicles are rear-end crashes. The good news is that the ABS system is estimated to reduce such collisions by 35 percent, and it is only one of several innovative and effective safety features available in those shiny new cars on the showroom floor.