The news is full of tragic stories about tractor-trailer accidents with smaller cars. Rear-end collisions, especially, are often fatal for the drivers and passengers of these vehicles – even though they're among the most preventable with the right technology. Yet, as driver technologies improve, accident rates continue to increase. Why?
The Kansas City Star reports that data collected from 2016 shows more than 4,300 deaths from truck accidents – a 23 percent increase from 2009. To put it into perspective, John Lannen from the Truck Safety Coalition points out that this would be like two jet liners crashing every month and killing everyone on board. “Those should be eye-opening numbers,” he said. “If air carriers or railroads reported similar numbers, there would be national outrage.”
The NHTSA's failure to mandate
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has not yet mandated any changes to trucking regulations or guidelines that could prevent the rear-end truck accidents that kill thousands of Americans every year. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent federal agency that investigates transportation accidents in the U.S., has made repeated recommendations to the NHTSA to take action to prevent trucks from rear-ending other vehicles.
The Star reports that, since the 1990s, the NTSB has made at least 10 recommendations to the NHTSA to implement forward crash avoidance and mitigation systems (like automatic braking and collision warning). However, some 20 years later, the NHTSA has failed to act, either with guidelines or a mandate.
What kinds of crash avoidance tech is available? Is it expensive, or difficult to implement? The Star's investigation says no. Many new cars today come with automatic emergency braking systems and forward collision warning systems – safety technology that the auto industry vows will be standard on all new cars by 2022. So the technology already exists. Some trucking companies are willing to invest the money to add safety technologies to their fleet; however, some are unwilling to spend the extra dollars.
The NHTSA has not commented on why they haven't followed through on the any of the NTSB's safety recommendations, but they did provide The Star with a written statement: “NHTSA researched early systems from 2013 to 2016, and is currently studying next-generation AEB (automatic emergency braking) technology through a naturalistic driving study using a field operation test. NHTSA expects to complete the critical field operation testing in 18 to 24 months. This research and other information will help inform an agency decision on next steps.”
Safety advocates like Jim Hall, former chairman of the NTSB, believes the NHTSA's priority should be on preventing more deaths right now, rather than focusing on future technologies. “Our government has failed to fund safe roads and encourages 80,000-pound trucks on the same highways as families and children in 3,000-pound vehicles,” he said. He also questioned why the NTSB doesn't mandate “available technology to provide safety to those who fund the highway system — the taxpayer?”
Truck safety technology works
According to The Star's report, seven out of 10 rear-end collisions can be avoided with the implementation of collision avoidance systems. And, with emergency braking, trucks can be slowed down to the point where, if a collision occurs, injuries are typically less severe with reduced property damage. For example, many tractor-trailer accidents occur when a driver isn't paying attention to traffic flow and plows into the back of a car in slowed traffic. Emergency braking systems can mitigate or even prevent these types of devastating rear-end collisions.
If you or a loved one were injured in a truck accident, talk to the Ohio and Kentucky truck accident lawyers at Crandall & Pera Law. Our lawyers are experienced in rear-end collisions, underride accidents, and other kinds of truck crashes. We can help you seek compensation for your injuries. Please call 877-686-8879, or fill out our contact form to schedule a no-obligation consultation.