Commercial truck drivers are not inspiring confidence on the Illinois roadways. Over the last five years of data collected between 2009 and 2013, fatal collisions have risen from 88 to 142, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Illinois Department of Transportation data shows that tractor trailers account for 3.6 percent of all the crashes in the state for 2013, but they are responsible for 10.5 percent of the crash fatalities, a disparity that is probably due to the relative size and weight of a truck compared to a passenger vehicle. Truck accidents have a higher rate of “A” injuries, which are those nonfatal injuries that keep individuals from resuming their normal activities after the crash. A Chicago truck accident lawyer would probably not be alone in wondering if technology such as collision avoidance systems may be able to reduce these alarming statistics.
A wide support base for new safety technology
Research and development of safety features for vehicles has caused drastic changes in the automobiles rolling off the production lines. Now federal lawmakers are considering whether some of these should be mandatory on all new large trucks due to pressure from trucking safety organizations. A petition recently filed by several advocacy groups refers specifically to the installation of collision warning and avoidance systems on all tractor trailers as an approach to improve safety. These groups have researched the effects of this technology where it has been put in place and express confidence that, even if a collision is unavoidable, at least the results could be less violent.
Those in the trucking industry are not opposed to the idea. In fact, a representative for American Trucking Associations has indicated that the organization is in the process of considering the issue, and that there is strong support for the idea of requiring collision avoidance systems on all large trucks. Many trucking companies have proactively installed crash warning or crash avoidance systems on their fleets.
Addressing distracted driving
The National Transportation Safety Board has a long history of advocating for crash avoidance systems that could prevent catastrophic rear-end crashes. In a recent safety report released in May of 2015, the NTSB listed several reasons tractor trailers cause rear-end collisions, including the following:
- Driver inattention
- Unsafe speeds
- Reduced visibility
- Road conditions
The report cites a study sponsored by the NHTSA revealing that 78 percent of all crashes involved some level of driver inattention, and the number rose to 87 percent in regards to rear-end collisions, specifically. Researchers found that delayed response time was the main effect of inattention. Data indicates that the number of portable electronic devices used in vehicles directly corresponds to the increase in truck accidents where the driver was not able to stop in time to avoid hitting another vehicle. Although tougher laws have helped to reduce the number of large truck operators using cellphones while driving, distracted driving continues to be a problem among truckers.
Sensor and alert systems
A collision warning system monitors the road ahead of the vehicle. The detection technologies consist of laser-, radar- and camera-based systems. Each of these types of information gathering processes sends out signals that alert the systems when an object is detected. Drivers are typically then prompted to react to the object via an alert within the vehicle.
Some systems that have been road tested work by giving the driver visual, audial or haptic warning cues. Research shows that these work better when an alert includes a combination of signals, such as a warning light and a vibration or sound. These systems work well on passenger vehicles, but they must be more sensitive when installed in large trucks so they can provide responses more quickly. A Chicago truck accident lawyer recognizes that, compared to the average car or SUV, a tractor trailer requires nearly three times as much distance to come to a full stop at highway speeds.
Refining systems for increased results
Even as the success rates continue to climb, government and industry leaders have acknowledged that earlier generations of the technology have had sensor issues that lead to problems such as overly sensitive equipment that triggers false alarms. Drivers who must drive with nearly constant visual and audial alerts are in danger of suffering alarm fatigue, which is a condition that leads to individuals tuning out the noise. The application of an automatic braking system may also cause issues for drivers. The Volpe Center, a government research facility focused on transportation and logistics, has employed experts to address the issues and reduce their occurrence. Refined detection has already led to a significant reduction in false alarms, according to a recent NHTSA report.
Trucking traffic on the rise
Injury reduction reports based on the current generation of technology shows that fatalities have been reduced by 24 percent, and injuries by 25 percent. However, projections based on early trials indicate that the future generations will reduce fatalities and injuries by 44 percent and 47 percent, respectively. It is particularly important for these safety concerns to be resolved because of the projected increase in trucking traffic the country will probably see over the next seven years. The ATA forecast indicates that tonnage shipped via America’s roadways will increase by 24 percent.
Individuals who sustain injuries or lose loved ones because of a collision caused by a large truck may be entitled to compensation for the ensuing medical bills, lost wages, lost quality of life and pain and suffering. A Chicago truck accident lawyer may be able to provide assistance in holding all responsible parties liable for the damages.