Are crash-avoidance systems the key to limiting truck accidents?

There's No Substitute for Experience

Every year, it seems as though auto manufacturers are adding new features to vehicles in order to enhance driver experience. These features could include built-in GPS guidance or smartphone integration, but others focus on something more critical: safety.

A recent report from the New York Times suggests that many large truck manufacturers are turning to the technology sometimes added to passenger vehicles, such as crash-avoidance systems. Using a suite of tools, vehicle-based technology can detect certain signals commonly associated with accidents and assist drivers in preventing an accident.

Some of the technology that has already made it into certain types of cars could eventually become standard or mandated in semi trucks. For example, sensors in tractor trailers could determine when other cars are getting too close, prompting the driver or the vehicle to engage the brakes.

This move is largely motivated by the idea that large commercial trucks are often more dangerous than smaller passenger vehicles when involved in an accident. The New York Times cites the statistic that fewer trucks are involved in accidents than cars, but the outcomes for truck accidents more frequently include fatal or serious injuries.

Calls to enhance the technology-based safety features in semi trucks have followed the accident that seriously injured comic actor Tracy Morgan. The trucker involved in this accident failed to stop for slowed traffic.

Technology certainly has the potential to be an ally in preventing accidents, but safe, responsible behavior behind the wheel ultimately comes back to individual drivers. Truckers should be aware that their vehicles are large and cannot stop as quickly as smaller vehicles while traveling at highway speeds, which requires them to make conscious adjustments.

In the event that federal officials do enhance safety requirements for tractor trailers, the mandates should obviously be followed. Failure to do so could be considered negligence. At the same time, drivers and their employers should never lose sight of the need to abide by basic safe driving habits that have not changed -- and will not change -- over time.

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