Many technological advancements in car safety come about to address specific problems. That’s certainly true with third brake lights, designed to prevent rear-end crashes. New data explores whether this mandate made the intended impact.


During this time 30 years ago, the Reagan administration mandated that all cars were outfitted with third brake lights. All 1986 and year models after that were required to have these third brake lights in order to minimize the number of rear-end collisions and injuries caused by those accidents. Unfortunately, however, rear-end collisions are still some of the most common car crashes in the United States. They make up more than 40% of all crashes on roads throughout the country. Crash avoidance features in cars have also evolved over this time, including automated braking and forward collision warning.
Like the third brake light, these are making their way into vehicles and are expected to decrease rear-end crashes. Manufacturers 30 years ago originally believed that their low-cost third brake light would be critical for helping to prevent accidents occurring at low speed. Those accidents usually don’t result in severe injuries or death. The regulation was anticipated to lead to 900,000 fewer crashes and a $434 million reduction in consumer property damage costs as estimated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.