Jeffrey E. Johnston

Surge in truck accident deaths prompts calls for new regulation

Accidents involving semi-tractor trailers around the country claimed 4,300 lives in 2016 according to government crash statistics, and this alarming surge in commercial vehicle road deaths in Georgia and other states has prompted renewed calls for autonomous crash avoidance systems to be mandated. Since the technology was developed about two decades ago, the National Transportation Safety Board has called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to introduce such a regulation on at least 10 occasions. The agency says that it hopes to complete field testing of the latest autonomous truck safety systems within two years.

Any new regulation is likely to meet fierce opposition from trade and lobbying groups. Organizations like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say that implementing a forward collision avoidance system regulation would place an unfair financial burden on their members. They also claim that the safety benefits of the technology are unclear and more research should be done before compelling business owners who may be struggling to invest in expensive new equipment.

Research that has been done suggests that the safety benefits of commercial vehicle collision avoidance systems could be significant. Experts say the technology could cut rear-end truck accidents by as much as 70 percent and greatly reduce the severity of crashes that do occur. Automatic emergency braking systems have been found to be especially effective at preventing accidents.

The kind of accidents that collision avoidance systems prevent often occur at high speeds and involve drivers who take no evasive action. In truck accident cases, this may be a sign that fatigue played a role and federal hours of service regulations were violated. These rules place strict limits on the amount of time truck drivers can spend on duty before rest becomes mandatory. When pursuing civil remedies on behalf of truck accident victims, experienced personal injury attorneys may study accident reports closely for indications of hour of service irregularities as well as other evidence that could be used to establish negligence in court.

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Jeffrey E. Johnston

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