Truck braking system prevented more deaths in Berlin

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A European Union law requiring all new trucks over a certain size to be fitted with an automatic braking system may have prevented many more deaths in last week’s rampage through a city Christmas market, according to an investigation by German media.

The newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and broadcasters NDR and WDR jointly found that the 40-ton truck used in the attack stopped about 250 feet after a suspected terrorist intentionally rammed it into the market, killing 12 people and injuring 48. That suggested the truck came to a halt because its mandatory, anti-collision system was deployed.

The EU adopted the regulation in 2012 to reduce the number of rear-end collisions involving trucks. Investigators have not commented on the theory. However, it raises the possibility the truck’s braking system saved lives. The system, which uses cameras to detect hazards, alerts the driver to potential dangers. If no action is taken, the brakes are engaged. The system can be manually overridden.

The Scania R450 truck crashed into several wooden cabins and tore down a Christmas tree before coming to a halt. The emergency braking system regulation applies to trucks with axles weighing more than than 3.5 tons, according to the EU legislation.

More than 80 people were killed when a terrorist ramed a 19-ton truck into crowds in a similar attack in Nice in July. The truck came to a halt after the driver was killed by police. It is not clear if that vehicle was fitted with a similar system.

German investigators previously ruled out a theory that the original Polish driver of the truck in the Berlin attack may have heroically acted to prevent additional loss of life.

Tunisian national Amri, 24, was shot dead by police in Milan on Friday. He fled to Italy in the hours after the attack. The Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the incident, released a video investigators determined is genuine that shows Amri pledging allegiance to its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

German prosecutors on Thursday released a 40-year-old Tunisian national who had been detained Wednesday on suspicion of being Amri’s accomplice. The man’s cellphone number was found saved in Amri’s phone. Prosecutors concluded the man had not been in contact with Amri immediately before the attack.