Study: Existing tech can dramatically reduce truck accidents

Because of the interstate highways crisscrossing Scranton and Lackawanna County, residents of this corner of Pennsylvania are very familiar with the dangers posed by large commercial trucks moving at high speeds.

A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has good news: more than 40 percent of rear-end truck accidents could be prevented by installation in 18-wheelers of existing safety features such as automatic braking and collision warnings.

“Horrible consequences”

Eric Teoh, the IIHS’s director of statistical services, conducted the study and said big rigs crash into the backs of passenger vehicles “a lot, often with horrible consequences.”

In its research, the IIHS also found that the advanced safety systems help reduce the speeds of tractor-trailers in rear-end collisions by more than 50 percent, reducing the damage done by enormous commercial trucks and reducing injuries and fatalities among occupants of passenger vehicles.

Along with its study, the IIHS issued a call to the federal government to require these existing safety technologies on all new large trucks. The research organization noted that some commercial truck fleet operators already understand that the systems can enhance their bottom lines, and are adding automatic emergency braking systems to their vehicles on their own.

Cutting down on crashes

Trucks with forward collision warning systems cut rear-end crashes by 44 percent, while automatic emergency braking reduced rear-end collisions by 41 percent, the study found.

Teoh analyzed crash data per vehicle mile traveled from 62 trucking companies that deploy tractor-trailers and other trucks weighing at least 33,000 pounds. He crunched the numbers from approximately 2,000 truck crashes that happened over 2 billion miles traveled from 2017 through 2019. The study compared trucks that were equipped with collision alert systems alone, automatic emergency braking systems alone and big rigs without advanced crash-prevention technologies.

According to the IIHS study, trucks equipped with collision warning systems alone had 22 percent fewer rear-end collisions. Those big rigs with the automatic braking feature had 12 percent fewer crashes.

Grim statistics

The IIHS says crashes involving large trucks have risen by nearly a third since 2009. In 2018, more than 4,100 people died in big truck crashes, including 119 who were killed in rear-end crashes.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents independent truck drivers, said it rejects the study because it doesn’t include factors such as trucker training and experience.

Regardless, the study bolsters the arguments of traffic safety advocates looking for ways to make the nation’s highways, roads and streets safer for everyone.