According to statistics compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, approximately 500,000 semis, 18-wheelers, and other large commercial trucks were involved in accidents in the U.S. in 2010, the last year for which statistics are available. Almost 5,000 people died in these crashes and another 100,000 suffered severe injuries. Indeed, when a passenger vehicle is involved in a truck accident, the effects are often times devastating.
In an effort to reduce the number of truck accidents in the United States, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently considering mandating the use of speed limiters on all commercial trucks. The speed limiters are electronic devices that prevent vehicles from traveling over 68 miles per hour.
Disagreement Sparks Debate
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On one hand, groups such as the National Trucking Association and Road Safe America have applauded the NHTSA’s suggestion. In their view, limiting the speed at which trucks can travel on the highway is key to preventing devastating collisions. On the other hand, groups such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association argue that limiting the speed of large trucks will actually make the roads less safe for everyone. As evidence, they cite studies indicating that highways are safest when all vehicles move at the same speeds.
In order to help evaluate the efficacy of the NHTSA proposal, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) commissioned a study about the use of speed limiters. Researchers studied data collected from 20 truck fleets, nearly 138,000 trucks, and more than 15,000 crashes.
The study found that approximately 15 percent of the crashes studies were “speed limiter relevant,” meaning that a speed limiter did play or would have played a role in preventing an accident. In determining whether an accident was speed limiter relevant, researchers considered:
- Location of the crash (e.g., whether the crash was on a highway with a speed limit less than 60 miles per hour)
- Crash type (e.g., whether a truck struck the rear of a vehicle)
- Crash narrative
In addition, other contributing factors, such as weather conditions, were used to exclude crashes that were not speed limiter relevant. Trucks without speed limiters were in approximately 5 speed limiter relevant crashes per 100 trucks per year, while trucks with speed limiters were in 1.4 speed limiter relevant crashes per 100 trucks per year.
Researchers discovered that the overall crash rate for trucks without speed limiters was approximately 16.4 crashes per 100 trucks per year versus 11 crashes per 100 trucks per year for trucks with speed limiters. The report concluded, “results from multiple analyses indicated a profound safety benefit for trucks equipped with an active speed limiter.”
While the process is still ongoing, the NHTSA has said that it intends to have a proposed rule requiring heavy trucks to have speed limiters to the Department of Transportation sometime early this year.
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If you or someone you love has suffered severe injury in a truck accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can assess your case and help you get the compensation you deserve for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. For more information, contact a personal injury attorney today.