Study: Existing safety tech could dramatically cut truck crashes

As a regional hub for the manufacturing and food industries, Sioux Falls has a constant flow of large commercial trucks in and out of the area on interstate highways and city streets. Because 18-wheelers can weigh up to 84,000 pounds in South Dakota, nothing else rolling on our roads can do as much damage in a motor vehicle crash as a big rig.

Reducing injuries and fatalities

A recently released study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that existing safety technology could dramatically reduce serious injuries and fatalities in truck accidents. The group says that the addition of systems featuring forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking could prevent more than 40 percent of collisions in which tractor-trailers slam into the backs of other vehicles.

The IIHS study says that the safety systems would also lower the risk of serious injuries and fatalities in the rear-end collisions that do occur by reducing the speeds at which the big rigs strike the other vehicles.

IIHS calls for safety mandate

In a statement accompanying their study, the IIHS called on the federal government to require that automatic braking and forward-collision systems be included in all new large trucks.

Eric Teoh, the institute’s director of statistical services, said “rear-end crashes with trucks and other vehicles happen a lot, often with horrible consequences,” adding that the study serves “an important countermeasure to that.”

Substantial crash reductions

The study found that large commercial rigs outfitted with a forward-collision warning system reduced rear-end collisions by 44 percent, while 18-wheelers with automatic emergency braking cut rear-end crashes by 41 percent.

For the study, crash data from 62 trucking companies that use semi-trucks (or other trucks) weighing at least 33,000 pounds. The research included information from about 2,000 truck accidents from 2017 through 2019.

The IIHS divided the trucks from those companies into three categories: those equipped with forward-collision alone, those with automatic emergency braking alone and those rigs without either of the systems. The institute then compared the crash data involving the trio of categories.

Remembering the lives lost

The IIHS noted that crashes involving large trucks have risen by nearly one-third since 2009. In 2018 alone, a total of 4,136 people died in truck accidents, with 119 of them killed in rear-end collisions.

The organization said some trucking companies have already outfitted their fleets with automatic braking, with others expected to follow suit. Here’s hoping that fleets will soon be equipped with forward-collision systems as well.

The serious injuries that would be avoided, and the lives that would be spared, are well worth it.