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Steven M. Lee, PC

Q:
What can be done to make large trucks less of a threat to other vehicles on the road?

A:

As the driver of a passenger car, you know what driving habits and technologies can keep you and others safe on the road. Being alert to other cars around you, traveling at a reasonable and legal speed, and taking advantage of the safety features on your car are all strategies that have kept your driving record clean for many years. Given that most of this is common knowledge, why haven’t more truck drivers taken the same approaches to driving safety?

Three Approaches to Strengthening Truck Safety

Reducing the number of fatalities caused by large tucks is a concern to lawmakers, government agencies, and law enforcement. Federal regulations limit the number of hours truckers can drive, restrict the speeds they can drive, and mandate regular health exams for truck drivers. Despite these efforts, crashes continue to happen, and they cause between 3,000 and 4,000 deaths each year.

So what else can be done? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) makes the following recommendations:

  • Install crash avoidance technology. While studies of the effectiveness of various technologies on large trucks are in the early stages, data from car studies is promising. Automatic emergency braking, roll stability control, and lane departure warning systems could all have a significant impact on truck safety if required on all large trucks.
  • Require better underride guards. Many of the deaths resulting from truck crashes occur when cars are forced under the trailer of the truck and the driver of the car is crushed or decapitated. These tragic deaths could be prevented by better underride guards. Stronger guards that extend the entire width of the trailer would save hundreds of lives a year, but they are not yet mandated by law.
  • Lower maximum allowable speeds. The maximum speed allowed for trucks in Texas is 85 mph, the highest speed allowed in the entire country. Some states limit truck speeds to 10 or 15 mph below the maximum speed for cars, but many other states do not. Even with lower speed limits for trucks, the IIHS believes that truckers will continue to drive at unsafe speeds unless speed governors are required by law.

The trucking industry is a powerful one in the United States and has a lot of influence in Washington. In order to pass these safety measures, lawmakers have to be convinced that driver safety is more important than giving in to a powerful lobby. Voice your concern to your senator or congressman today.

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