Fatalities Caused By Truck Accidents Are On The Rise, But Sensible Countermeasures Can Curb This Disturbing Trend
Most deaths in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants. Large trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger vehicles. They are taller and have greater ground clearance than cars, which means that lower-riding vehicles can slide beneath truck trailers, with deadly consequences. Rear underride guards are supposed to stop this from happening, but IIHS research shows that guards meeting federal safety standards can fail in relatively low-speed crashes. IIHS has petitioned regulators to require underride guards that are strong enough to remain in place during a crash.
Report Details Safety Hazards That Cause Truck Accidents
A report released in June by the American Association for Justice uncovers a number of preventable safety hazards that contribute to truck accidents. According to the Truck Safety Alert: The Rising Danger from Trucks (download), the problems are driven by an economic model that is fundamentally unsound. “Truck drivers – compensated by miles driven, not hours worked – are pushed to ignore safety measures, delay repairs and drive in a fatigued state,” it said.
In addition, the report notes that artificially low insurance limits prevent unsafe trucking carriers from ever being held accountable for the damages they cause. While a fatal truck crash today can result in approximately $4.3 million in damages, the insurance minimum for cargo trucks has remained frozen at $750,000 since 1980. U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania recently introduced the Safe Haul Act (H.R. 2730) to raise the required insurance minimum for motor carriers.
Given that the percentage of freight traveling by truck is expected to reach 70 percent in the next decade, it is highly likely that more trucks will share the roadways with passenger cars. Thus, the report ends with this dire warning: If the current growth in the fatality rate for truck accidents continues, 58,000 people will lose their lives in the next 10 years.
Here are Some Tips for Avoiding Car-Truck Accidents
- Know that large trucks maneuver differently from cars and be extra-cautious as you approach.
- One-third of all crashes between large trucks and cars involve blind spots. If you can’t see a truck’s side mirrors, the truck driver can’t see you.
- Do not pass a truck on the right while the truck is turning right. The rear wheels follow a shorter path than the front wheels, so trucks must swing wide to the left to safely negotiate right turns.
- Large vehicles require a much longer distance to stop than cars. Cutting in front of a truck or bus could result in a serious or fatal accident.
- To properly pass a large truck or bus on the highway, accelerate slightly and maintain a consistent speed. Wait until you can see the entire cab in your rear-view mirror before you signal and pull in.
- If a truck appears to be starting a left turn, check which way the driver is signaling before passing on the right.
- Give trucks at least four to six seconds of space in wet conditions and at highway speeds.
- If you witness unsafe driving, report it to the authorities.
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