Tractor trailers should have collision avoidance systems

Rain on the road

Rain on the road

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
  • Fatigue
  • 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.

Age-appropriate car seat restraints save children’s lives

pKidInCarSeatBuckling seat belts before turning on the car is a way of life for many Illinois residents, but safety experts warn that the restraints that come standard in vehicles are not ideal for children. Child safety seats and boosters have been developed specifically for their ages and weights, and using them correctly can often be the difference between life and death in a motor vehicle accident. An attorney at a Chicago personal injury law firm knows how important it is for Illinois residents to understand the dangers that attend improper child restraint practices.

Laws are not consistent

Every state has child restraint laws that cover the guidelines for younger children, and safety belt laws outline those that govern the restraint use of older children and adults. Evidence indicates that tougher child restraint laws make a difference in the number of children who are properly buckled.

The CDC reports a recent study reviewing the outcomes five states have seen after changing the laws regarding booster seats to prevent injuries and fatalities from auto accidents. Before the legislation, booster seats were required up to age 5 or 6. The new laws extended the age to 7 or 8. The study reviewed the data for the two years before and the two years after the laws were put into effect, and the results were noteworthy. There was a 5 percent decrease in the rate of injuries of any severity when children between the ages of 6 and 8 used booster seats, and a 17 percent decrease in the rate of fatal or debilitating injuries.

In spite of the proof that boosters are safer for children up to age 8, the laws differ from location to location. In Illinois, the current law states that all children must wear appropriate safety restraints. Those 7 years old and younger must ride in a child safety seat. Children between the ages of 8 and 15 may wear an adult seat belt, although children under the age of 13 must still sit in a rear seat.

Adult restraints are not safe

Using an adult seat belt is better than no restraint at all, but when they do not fit properly, children do not receive ideal protection. Typically, children are about 4 feet 9 inches tall and 80 pounds before they fit properly in an adult seat belt. While adult seat belts do reduce the chances of fatality for children ages 1 to 4 in an accident by about 36 percent, an appropriately used child restraint reduces the risk of an accident by nearly 60 percent, statistics that an attorney at a Chicago personal injury law firm may be aware of. Children between the ages of 4 and 8 are also much safer with an adult restraint than none at all, but belt-positioning boosters reduce the risk of injury by 45 percent.

Improper use of restraints

Unfortunately, the installation of safety seats is difficult, and it is common for them to be unintentionally misused, according to the NHTSA. Even though the majority of children are restrained, the percentage not wearing the appropriate restraints or wearing the restraints incorrectly is significant.

In 2013, 10 percent of children under the age of 1 were in rear-facing restraints, which should be used until children are at least 2 years old. Only 10 percent of children between the ages of 1 and 3 still rode in rear-facing seats, and 73 percent had been graduated to forward-facing seats. Nine percent were placed prematurely in booster seats, 3 percent wore adult safety belts, and 5 percent were completely unrestrained. For children ages 4 to 7, nearly one in four wore adult seat belts without booster seats, and 9 percent were unrestrained.

In Illinois, the crash data provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation Crash Report for 2013 demonstrated how seat belt use affected children involved in motor vehicle crashes in the state. In 14 percent of crashes where a child under the age of 15 died, the child restraint was used improperly. Another 3 percent who were inappropriately restrained received injuries that prevented them from returning to their former activities and way of life.

Front seats are hazardous for pre-teens

Safety experts say that children under the age of 13 should never ride in the front seat, even in a vehicle that has no airbag or has the airbag deactivated. The risk of death for children under age 3 is 75 percent higher in the front seat, and nearly 50 percent higher for children between the ages of 4 and 8. In 2013, observation surveys indicated that all but 2 percent of infants rode in the back seat. Not only that, all child passengers between 1 and 3 rode in the back seat, and 90 percent between the ages of 4 and 7. Altogether, the restraint use of children under 13 was at 91 percent. Studies such as these confirm that legislation and awareness programs do work.

The CDC actively promotes child safety in vehicles through local programs that assist in the proper installation of car seats. By using the correct rear-facing, forward-facing and booster seats, parents may be able to save their children from injuries and fatalities in the event of a crash.

In motor vehicle accidents where even an age-appropriate child restraint cannot prevent serious injury or death, devastation for parents and loved ones is inevitable. A Chicago personal injury law firm is often able to serve those who are suffering by providing legal representation in court to hold responsible parties liable for the damages they caused. While financial compensation does not lessen the grief, it can provide relief from expenses related to the accident.

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