New tech could make roads safer



September 19, 2018 - 11:01 AM

The number of fatalities involving semis and other large trucks is spiking, making our highways increasingly perilous for drivers. And both federal regulators and the trucking industry have refused to take relatively simple steps to mandate the installation of new technology that could prevent rear-end collisions — a fact that should spark outrage and action.
With deadly accidents involving semis on the rise, heavy truck manufacturers should commit to installing automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning systems and other high-tech safety features in new rigs. Congress should require all semis on the road to be equipped with collision avoidance technology regardless of model, make or year.
Each year, at least 300 people are killed and another 15,000 are injured in wrecks involving a semi that runs into the back of another vehicle, a study found.
Since the summer of 2017, at least eight people involved in rear-end truck crashes in the Kansas City area have died. Nationwide, more than 4,300 people were killed in accidents involving big rigs in 2016.
Those numbers should spur demands for long overdue regulations that would improve safety in the industry. It’s bewildering and indefensible that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has failed to mandate needed changes during the past two decades.
Requiring forward collision avoidance systems is a simple fix that could prevent more than seven out of 10 rear-end truck collisions, according to companies that have installed the equipment.
As The Star reported Sunday, the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended at least 10 times since the 1990s that NHTSA require forward crash avoidance and mitigation systems on all heavy trucks.
And road safety experts agree that technology can prevent wrecks. Untold numbers of deadly rear-end truck crashes might have been avoided had the systems been in place.
Regulations exist for a reason. When industries are not required to adhere to reasonable safety standards, lives are needlessly lost.
The European Union requires crash avoidance systems on big trucks. Why hasn’t the U.S. done the same? Could the influence of lobbyists and influential donors be the reason?
Lobbying efforts on behalf of the trucking industry totaled $11 million in 2017. And congressional candidates collected more than $5.2 million in campaign contributions from like-minded groups during the 2016 election cycle.
The lack of action is unacceptable. As U.S. Sen. Cory Booker told The Star, the rising death toll from truck accidents shouldn’t be ignored.
Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, called on Congress to take meaningful steps to improve safety across the transportation sector. Other lawmakers should stand with Booker — preventing fatal accidents need not be a partisan issue.
The federal government has the final say. It should mandate that the trucking industry put safety above saving a few bucks.
— The Kansas City Star

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