Trucking Industry Safety Advocate Urges for NHTSA Forward Collision Avoidance System Mandate

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There is simply no question that trucking accidents represent a national crisis in safety and public health. While commercial trucks and other large vehicles have tremendous utility, they also inflict significant negative costs on society in the form of serious roadway and highway accidents. In fact, there are approximately 4,000 fatalities reported annually due to large-truck crashes. More than 100,000 people suffer serious injuries due to commercial truck accidents. In all, the costs imposed on society due to commercial truck crashes totals more than $100 billion each year. Were you or someone you love in an accident? Contact a Philadelphia truck accident attorney.

In light of the significant costs and damages imposed by the trucking industry, one would probably assume that we are taking all reasonable efforts to reduce or eliminate the likelihood of a serious commercial vehicle accident. Unfortunately, according to Jacqueline Gillan, the president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, we have been losing ground in highway safety efforts. According to Ms. Gillan, the United States as a whole has experienced a 15 percent increase in commercial truck fatalities and a shocking 50 percent increase in the number of people suffering serious injuries since 2009. These increases have occurred despite the development of crash and collision avoidance technology that can significantly reduce the risk of a commercial truck accident. Ms. Gilian recently penned a guest column for Trucks.com setting forth some potential ways to address the commercial trucking safety crisis we currently face.

Collision Avoidance Systems Can Save Lives

According to Ms. Gillian the good news is that proven technological solutions to address the problems caused by commercial trucking accidents already exist. She states that automatic emergency braking (AEB) is an effective means of stopping collisions from occurring. According to an NHTSA study, systems of this type could prevent nearly 60 percent of fatalities and injuries associated with rear-end collision accidents involving both moving or stationary lead vehicles. A separate NHTSA study cited in the letter indicates that in over 3 million miles of data, crash avoidance systems (CAS) did not fail to stop any of the crash types that they were designed to prevent. NHTSA estimates that current generation CAS systems can prevent over 2,300 crashes each year and furthermore that future systems may be up to three times as effective at preventing crashes. Thus, the data is already out there showing that these systems are effective and can be relied upon to supplement human judgment and decrease accident risk.

While Some Companies Install CAS, Adoption Lags Without a National Standard

Ms. Gillian argues that it is long passed time for NHTSA to adopt a system of performance requirements to rate and classify various types of collision avoidance technologies. She states that NHTSA has already taken this step for many other types of safety technologies including seat belts, brakes, tires, airbags, and electronic stability control systems. The adoption of a national standard for collision warning and avoidance systems would ensure that systems vehicle-to-vehicle function in substantially the same manner. Furthermore, minimal standards would also provide further confidence that a CAS will function at the critical moments it is intended to operate.

Other aspects of the proposed regulation would mandate the installation of a particular type of CAS known as forward collision avoidance and mitigation braking, or F-CAM. F-CAM would be required to be installed on all new commercial trucks and buses with a minimum gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds.

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The F-CAM system works through the use of both radar and sensors. These input devices will alert the commercial motor vehicle operator that his or her vehicle is traveling too fast or too closely to another vehicle ahead that is stopped or traveling more slowly. If the system determines that a risk is about to become imminent, it can automatically apply the brakes to avoid the accident or mitigate the consequences of the accident.

Commercial Trucking Safety Can be Significantly Improved with Today’s Technology

The simple fact is that real gains in highway safety can be had with today’s technology. The main stumbling block that is limiting our ability to prevent commercial truck accidents and save lives is a lack of regulatory action by NHTSA. Furthermore, members of Congress have been all too willing to concede to the demands of the trucking industry and eliminate certain safety regulations like aspects of the hours-of-service provision. What we are left with is a scenario where we are failing to maximize both sides of the safety equation. On one side we are leaving proven technological solutions on the table while on the other side we are pushing the limits of human endurance further and further. Unless we change course and begin to focus on at least one side of the safety equation, we can only expect accidents and injuries to continue to increase.

If you were injured in a truck accident, contact a Philadelphia truck accident attorney at The Reiff Law Firm today.

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