The number of fatal large truck accidents in America is on the rise and the NHTSA’s failure to act could be part of the reason. As injury and death rates reach new heights, regulators are struggling to develop an effective strategy to curb the risks. For now, those injured in a large truck accident can best protect themselves by staying alert and steering clear of these dangerous vehicles.
Deadly Accidents Rising
More than 4,300 individuals died in large truck accidents in 2016. This was an increase of more than 28% since 2009. Large truck fatalities rose another 9% in 2017, with 4,761 lives lost.
More traffic on the roads, higher speed limits, the truck driver shortage, driver fatigue, and poor adherence to safety standards are a few of the reasons fatalities are on the rise. Drivers “racing” the clock and distracted driving are also main contributors.
Regulators are Failing to Act
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has failed to take adequate steps to protect motorists and pedestrians from large vehicle accidents. Since the 1990s, the NHTSA has failed on more than 10 occasions to require the installation of forwarding crash avoidance and mitigation systems on large trucks. Installing these systems could prevent more than 300 deaths and 15,000 injuries each year.
Similarly, there are no requirements for the installation of automatic braking systems and other technologically sound safety features that are becoming standard on passenger vehicles. In many instances, makers of commercial motor vehicles are not required to install safety features that manufacturers are required to install on passenger vehicles.
Further, regulatory action takes far too long to enact, and in many cases, it simply gets shelved. For instance, for 11 years the NHTSA considered installing mandatory speed limiters on large trucks. These devices would limit large truck speed to 68 MPH and potentially reduce fatal accidents by more than 1,115 per year. After intense lobbying and industry pressure, regulators shelved this proposal in 2017. It was shelved even though the implementation of this standard would have been easy to achieve and would not have raised the production cost of a single vehicle.
Many safety standards meant to protect the public from large truck accidents are voluntary. At best they are flimsy, at worst they are entirely ineffective. The result is the rising rates of large truck accidents and the injuries and fatalities they cause.