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Will forward crash prevention systems become a standard feature?

Americans often take certain automobile safety features for granted. It's difficult to imagine (or remember) a time without seat belts and air bags, for instance. But these were once brand new safety features that were only available as optional features for car buyers willing to pay more. At some point, federal regulators and Congress took steps to ensure that these critical safety features were included in all new vehicles.

Many of today's newest automobiles have an impressive set of safety features, most of which were first introduced less than a decade ago. Some of these features will no doubt become standardized through legislation and regulation, but how does the government decide which features to focus on?

Statistics are one way to identify safety features that are too important to remain optional. And, statistically speaking, one of the most impressive safety features has been the front crash prevention system with auto-braking capabilities.

This isn't just one system by one automaker. Many manufacturers now have a version of front crash prevention system, and they go by various names. But the two key components include detection/warning capabilities when a crash is imminent and the ability to automatically apply the brakes if the driver fails to do so.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently studied the effectiveness of front crash prevention systems by analyzing police-reported crash data. The IIHS found that front crash prevention systems with auto-brake reduced rear-end crashes by an average of 40 percent. In human terms, those numbers are even more impressive. If all cars had been equipped with FCP systems with auto-brake, the IIHS says, the number of police-reported rear end crashes in 2013 would have been reduced by at least 700,000.

Fewer rear-end crashes also mean fewer soft-tissue injuries like whiplash. And in cases where a crash cannot be completely avoided, auto-brake features may reduce the severity of injuries by at least slowing the car down before impact.

The big question now is: Will these systems become a mandatory, standard feature on new vehicles? If historical precedent serves as any indication, the answer is likely yes.

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