Who’s more dangerous on the road — you or truck drivers?
It would be costly, but new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds a handful of advanced safety technologies could help prevent tens of thousands of crashes involving large trucks.
Tractor-trailers and other large trucks were involved in more than 400,000 crashes in 2015, according to the foundation. Those crashes claimed more than 4,000 lives and 116,000 injuries — a 4 percent increase from the year prior.
The report suggests that the benefits of installing key instruments on new or existing trucks — such as lane departure warning systems, automatic emergency braking, air disc brakes and video-based onboard safety monitoring systems — clearly outweigh the cost.
The video-based systems alone, according to the foundation, can prevent as many as 63,000 crashes annually.
Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, noted $9 billion is spent annually nationwide on safety technology by the trucking industry. And some of the larger commercial fleets have begun equipping their vehicles with the latest technologies, as they turn over their fleet every four to five years.
"It's just a matter of time and it's not going to be a significant amount of time," Toth said of implementing the latest safety equipment on trucks. "We don't want to be in an accident either."
Toth said she's chatted with several drivers who've been behind the wheel of a truck equipped with automatic braking, and they've described it as "phenomenal."
While technology can reduce crash risk, Toth said it's not the only piece of the solution. The behavior of other motorists, and the decisions they make while driving near large trucks, create an unsafe scenario on the roads, she said.
Toth said far too often, drivers cut in front of tractor-trailers who've intentionally left a sizeable gap between themselves and the car ahead of them. And not many motorists are willing to let a large truck switch lanes in front of them, even if the truck driver is waiting patiently with the blinker activated.
In a survey from AAA accompanying their traffic research, 61 percent of U.S. adults said they feel less safe driving past large commercial trucks than driving past passenger cars.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.