Putting the Brakes on 18 Wheeler Accidents: Crash Avoidance Systems Should Be Required on New Big Trucks, Safety Coalition Says
Four groups—Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, The Truck Safety Coalition, the Center of Auto Safety, and Road Safe America filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking it to start the rulemaking process for requiring forward collision avoidance and braking systems on all new trucks and buses with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds or more.
An average of 4,000 people are killed and nearly 100,000 are injured every year in crashes involving tractor trailers, semi-trucks, flatbeds, and other 18 wheelers, according to the coalition’s statement. The accident toll is rising with deaths up 16 percent and injuries up 40 percent since 2009.
Oklahoma has seen an increasing number of large truck accidents with 112 fatalities in 2013, according to the NHTSA. In addition, Oklahoma is among the states with the highest share of truck accidents. Thirteen percent of fatal crashes in the state involved tractor trailers in a recent year, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
On April 3, the driver of a semi trailer was killed and a pedestrian who tried to rescue the truck driver was seriously injured after one tractor trailer travelling north on I-35 near Stillwater struck another large truck that was parked on the shoulder of the interstate, causing a fire and explosion.
Safety Technology Available to Reduce Truck Accidents
The advocacy groups petitioning the federal government say the forward collision avoidance and mitigation braking (F-CAM) systems currently available would prevent many crashes involving large trucks and buses, especially rear end collisions.
The technology employs radar and sensors to warn drivers when the truck is drawing too close to a vehicle stopped in the roadway or traveling slower just ahead. This gives the driver an opportunity to apply the brakes. In the case of an imminent crash, the brakes are automatically applied to prevent a crash or at least reduce the damage.
The NHTSA estimates that the current generation of crash avoidance systems would avert more than 2,500 wrecks annually and that future systems could stop 6,300 crashes.
While most manufacturers of big trucks offer an optional version of F-CAM systems, no national standards exists and many trucking companies aren’t taking advantage of the safety technology. As a result, only three percent of some three million tractor-trailers have this crash avoidance technology.
Road Safe America co-founder Steve Owings lost his son Cullum when a speeding tractor-trailer crashed into his vehicle from behind as he was stopped in traffic. The trucker didn’t hit the brakes until he was within 100 feet of the stopped traffic.
The safety advocates contend that requiring airbags and electronic stability control systems as standard equipment in passenger cars improved safety and that requiring crash avoidance systems is the best way to reduce big-truck crashes.
As truck accident lawyers who have seen the devastation that trucks accident can cause Oklahoma families, we support efforts to make our highways and communities safer. We understand the dangers of trucking and the many ways that truck accidents occur. We are committed to holding truck drivers and trucking companies accountable when their disregard for public safety causes accidents.
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