It’s time to demand the same safety standards found in most conventional vehicles
One thing’s indisputable: today’s technology is highly sophisticated and, in many ways, a necessity for most of the world.
When my wife and I bought our last car, we accounted for the essentials: seat belts, airbags (front, side, etc.), standard daytime running lights, and antilock brakes. Then it got interesting. We looked closely at the back-up camera, the blind spot detection system, the rear and forward collision warning systems, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warnings—advanced features that have been fine-tuned over the last several decades with the explicit purpose of keeping people safe.
Which begs the question: Why are my car, other cars, crossovers, and SUVs adhering to and employing better safety standards than 30-ton tractor trailers?
According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, which based its findings on roughly 120,000 large truck crashes, 55 percent of truck accidents were initiated by the truck. Even more alarming: 87 percent of those crashes were the result of carelessness—fatigue, poor driving, speeding, tailgating, etc. And more still: Over 22 percent of truck crashes occurred when the truck rear-ended another vehicle; 32 percent happened when the truck drifted from one lane to another lane or off the road entirely.
These types of crashes are significantly more preventable if we demand the same types of advances found in most conventional cars.
Take rear back up cameras, for example. A 2010 study by the NHTSA found that 228 deaths and 17,000 injuries resulted from cars backing into people. As alarming as that reads, consider that nearly 44 percent of those crashes involved kids under the age of 5, and that a pickup truck or an SUV was four times more likely than a car to kill someone. Thing is, rear-end backup cameras will be required for all new cars beginning May 2018. To date, no such standard is in the works for commercial trucks.
The theme here: the bigger the vehicle, the more dangerous the outcome. If a pickup truck with a rearview mirror is four times deadlier than a car, imagine how the numbers correlate to a tractor-trailer. If you’ve ever sat in the cab of a semi-truck, you know that blind spots are extensive. You know that large trucks don’t have rear-view mirrors. You know that side mirrors have no practical use. In fact, the trucking acronym for maneuvering in reverse is called G.O.A.L., which stands for “Get Out And Look.” (In an ideal situation, the driver uses a spotter to direct them properly.) Installing a back-up camera could go a long way to reducing those stresses and preventing unnecessary accidents.
This isn’t an issue of truck companies coming up with science-fiction-level tech to solve a problem. This isn’t even an issue of calculating the cost-benefit analysis. Active/adaptive cruise control for trucks (a system that adjusts a truck’s speed based on the vehicle in front of it) runs as low as $2,100. It’s not free, but as someone who’s represented families who have lost loved ones because a truck rear-ended a car, I can assure you it’s significantly less than what a truck company ends up paying for a lawsuit. Simply put, it’s a poor business decision for the trucking industry to ignore better safety practices for the sake of saving a few bucks.
The saddest part about this may be the lack of awareness. Given the prevalence of driving safety technology, it would likely surprise most people to learn that multi-million-dollar trucking companies, with fleets of trucks covering millions of miles of road each year, don’t utilize existing technology to prevent injuries and fatalities. Isn’t it time they should?