Rear-end collisions account for about one in three traffic accidents in North Carolina and around the country, but autonomous safety systems that monitor the road ahead and apply vehicle brakes automatically could prevent many of them according to a study published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The nonprofit organization says that the technology reduces rear end-collisions by about 40 percent and prevents injuries by up to 68 percent when accidents do occur.

IIHS researchers wanted to find out if the impressive performance of forward monitoring systems and automatic brakes in controlled crash tests carried over into real-world situations. To do this, they studied police car accident reports and then used a list of vehicle serial numbers provided by General Motors to determine which accidents involved vehicles equipped with autonomous technology.

The findings reveal that GM vehicles equipped with the systems were involved in 40 percent fewer rear-end collisions and accidents were far less severe when they did occur. The study suggests that automatic braking and forward monitoring reduces injuries by 64 percent and injuries to third parties by 68 percent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not announced any plans to make the technology mandatory, but car manufacturers say that it will be included on most vehicles sold in the United States by 2022.

Electronic safety systems that monitor traffic conditions also keep track of drivers and record enormous amounts of information. Experienced personal injury attorneys could use this data to show that motorists were exceeding posted speed limits or ignored traffic signals before they crashed. When their clients suffer injuries in rear-end collisions, attorneys may consult with neurologists or other medical specialists to find out if potentially debilitating whiplash injuries could have gone undiagnosed.