Stricter distracted driving laws, dashboard cameras, and black boxes in trucks that track accident data are all great ways to cut down on both passenger vehicle and commercial vehicle accidents. But have they made a significant impact yet?
It can take a long period of time to get a good sense of trends in traffic accident data, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrationrecently reviewed accident statistics for the past two years and found some bad news: rather than going down, overall large-truck fatalities actually increased 3.7% from 2011 to 2012. Breaking that down even further, the NHTSA reported that truck occupant fatalities were up 8.9%,and fatalities for occupants of other vehicles were up 4.8%. The only good news from that batch of statistics was that truck accident fatalities for individualsnot in a vehicle were down 11%.
An overall increase of 3.7% might not sound like that big of a deal initially, but when you consider that we’re looking at 3.7% out of thousands of fatal truck accidents per year (4,390 large truck fatalities in 2000 is one of the most recent data points available), that percentage starts sounding more serious.
Shining a Spotlight on Truck Accidents
A recent report from the NHTSA is causing people in the commercial trucking industry to sit up and take notice. Steve Keppler, the executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, recently told Fleet Owner magazine“these are not good results” and “it does tell us that we need to do more,and we have some work to do.”
The trucking industry has also been getting more attention after several very serious accidents –including a recent triple truck crash in Houston and the case of a distracted truck driver who killed a highway patrolman – have made headlines around the country. These are, of course, extreme cases, but they indicate that theadditional safety precautions need to be taken in order to decrease the number of truck accident fatalities.
The good news is that we’re already working towards making things safer. The federal government implemented new regulations this summer that require long-haul truckers to take more breaks (including at least a 30-minute break in the first 8 hours of driving) and reduce their maximum hours of work per week from 82 to 70.Some truckers are worried that the reduction in hours will lower their earnings, but since driving while sleep-deprived is one of the biggest causes of motor vehicle accidents, the regulation seems to come with more positives than negatives.
Minor Changes Can Save Many Lives
It’s not just the government who should be working to improve trucking safety – the trucking industry itself needs to step up. One major step that truck drivingschools could take is toincrease the emphasis that they place on the dangers of distracted driving. It’s certainly understandable that driving across the country alone could get boring, but truck drivers who are looking at their phones or other screens instead of concentrating on the road are significantly increasing the odds that they’re going to get into a serious accident.
Anyone who has been injured in a truck accident or has lost a loved one at the hands of a reckless or negligent truck driver also needs to take a stand. By working with an experienced truck accident attorney, victims and their families can draw attention to dangers in the trucking industry and urge our country to keep working towards making our roads safer.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphy. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”