Mar. 12, 2003 ORLANDO, March 11, 2003 – By now, most of us are aware that sport utility vehicles are prone to rollover accidents, but a Florida traffic safety expert's research reveals a heightened risk of rear-end collisions for passenger cars that follow SUVs.
Mohamed Abdel-Aty, a specialist in Intelligent Traffic Systems and an associate professor of transportation engineering at the University of Central Florida, says the danger arises from the simple fact that SUVs are so much larger than other cars.
"The geometric incompatibility arises from the fact that most LTVs (light truck vehicles including vans and SUVs) ride higher and are wider than regular passenger cars," says Abdel-Aty. "The objective was to explore the effect of the lead vehicle's size on the rear-end crash configuration.
"A driver of a smaller car following an LTV has a problem seeing the roadway beyond the LTV and therefore would not be able to adjust his or her speed accordingly, increasing the probability of a rear-end collision. Also, the probability of a rear-end crash increases in the case that the lead vehicle stops suddenly."
Abdel-Aty anticipates that rear-end accidents will keep rising.
"Registrations of light truck vehicles currently account for over a third of all light vehicle registrations, and are a growing component of the U.S. fleet," he says.
In separate research, Abdel-Aty is devising a sophisticated countermeasure that could save lives on U.S. highways nationwide – by analyzing accident data to develop a powerful computer program that can predict roadway trouble before it happens. His system will work in tandem with electronic billboards to communicate with motorists.
He's been analyzing traffic speed and volume for three years along a 40-mile stretch of Interstate 4 from Disney World to Lake Mary, gleaning raw data from sensors buried every half-mile. By comparing accidents with these data, he determines the potential for wrecks at various times and places – in effect predicting them.
"If we can come up with a system that would flag a certain location when the ingredients for an accident come up, it can be applied on highways all over the country," he says.
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