Technology Could Prevent Whopping 77,000 Truck Crashes A Year

So why aren’t big-rig safety features mandatory?

dreamstime_s_72382566-300x178Passing a tractor-trailer on a highway can be a scary experience. What if you are in the driver’s blind spot, he switches lanes, and crashes into your car? It happens all the time.

Equally nerve-racking is seeing an 18-wheeler in your rear view mirror bearing down on you. What if that driver doesn’t brake in time and hits your vehicle with his enormous tractor-trailer?

New technology could make these concerns a thing of the past.

The AAA Foundation just released an enlightening study that concluded four technological features could prevent 77,077 accidents that cause over 23,000 injuries and 500 fatalities every year.

This is exciting news — if trucking companies actually use this technology.

Four technological safety features could save lives

  • A lane departure warning system uses sensors to constantly monitor the area surrounding the truck. If the truck begins to drift into the adjoining lane or the driver attempts to make a lane change, the sensors determine whether the lane is clear of objects, i.e., your car. First, the system warns the trucker, and then takes corrective actions if the trucker fails to respond.
  • A video-based onboard safety monitoring system connects vehicle sensors and cameras to a dashboard screen from which the trucker can see what is happening outside the truck. A supervisor may also view the videos to monitor and assess employees’ driving performance.
  • An automatic braking system detects objects ahead of the truck and automatically slows speed or applies the brakes to avoid a collision.
  • Air disc brakes reduce stopping time considerably.

Preventable Accidents, Injuries and Deaths

The numbers speak for themselves. Safety technology works.

Installing these four safety features in new and existing commercial vehicles would prevent this large number of accidents and resulting injuries and deaths every year:

Safety Feature

Lane departure warning systems

Video-based on board safety monitoring systems

Automatic emergency braking systems

Air disc brakes

Total 

    Crashes

6,372

63,000

5,294

2,411

77,077

    Injuries

1,342

17,733

2,753

1,447

23,275

   Deaths

115

293

55

37

500

What about the expense?

There is no price that can be placed on human life. However transportation companies do the math all the time. Trucking carriers constantly consider ways to cut expenses to increase profits, often at the expense of safety. One of the biggest barriers to installing safety features is costs, or at least that’s the common argument.

The newly-released study found benefits actually outweigh the costs of installing safety features. Besides the obvious protection of human life, trucking companies may benefit from fewer accidents, lower insurance premiums and other accident-related costs. As a society, we also save money associated with trucking crashes, such as emergency response, medical care, property damage, police, cleanup, and individual loss of wages and diminished quality of life.

The AAA Foundation found that equipping all new and existing commercial trucks with lane departure and video-based on board monitoring systems led to benefits that far outweighed the costs. The nonprofit safety organization also concluded that emergency and air disc braking features  would likely outweigh the costs of installation.

But let’s face it, when selling trucking services to customers, advertising that “we have the safest truck fleet on the road,” cannot compete with “we have the lowest prices.” Likewise, company investors pay more attention to profit figures than what may seem like a theoretical argument for lives saved.

Not making the installation of these life-saving features mandatory disincentivizes responsible companies from taking action that could reduce their competitiveness.

Obviously this new technology improves safety. Now our lawmakers and regulatory agencies need to step up to the plate and require installation in all commercial vehicles.

Please contact my office if you have been injured in a collision involving a commercial truck or 18-wheeler.

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