Articles Posted in Truck Accident Research

Although school busses are known as a relatively safe means of transportation, New Mexico school bus accidents are still a major concern for parents. And despite the clear research that seat belts help save lives in the event of a serious accident, only six states in the country require school busses be equipped with seatbelts. New Mexico is not among those states.

In New Mexico, school busses are not required to have seatbelts. The state’s rationale is based on a 1987 study from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) claiming that most fatalities in school bus accidents would not have been prevented had the bus been equipped with seat belts. However, after a fatal school bus accident earlier this year, the NTSB seems to be reversing its previous position.

In May of this year, a New Jersey school bus was struck by a dump truck as the driver of the bus attempted to make a U-turn on the highway across three lanes of traffic. According to a local news report, when the truck collided with the bus, it ripped the bus from its frame. As a result of the accident, one student and one teacher were killed and dozens of others were injured. At the time, New Jersey was one of the six states that required lap belts on school busses.

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A recent New York Times article addressed the growing rate of truck accidents across the country as well as the fatalities that follow as a result. The article referenced studies that compared the rate of deaths between those who died in commercial airline accidents versus those who have been killed in trucking accidents. Startlingly, more people have been killed this year in accidents involving trucks than the total number of people killed in the past 45 years in airline crashes.

Even with the prevalence and severity of trucking accidents, Congress has still attempted to thwart many safety procedures that have been implemented by federal regulators. For example, Congress has fought to allow truck drivers to work 82 hours over eight days. This number is 12 hours higher than is currently allowed.

Furthermore, Congress has tried to suspend the rule that drivers need to take a 34-hour break over two nights before starting their week. Additionally, Congress has even tried to lower the minimum age of drivers to 18 years old. Congress has continually pushed for these changes, even though the death toll in truck accidents has risen over 17 percent over the past five years while there has been about a three percent drop in accidents involving cars. This drop, the article suggests, is likely due to the increase in technological safety devices, of which many trucking companies oppose the widespread or mandated use. Although statistics indicate that large trucks are disproportionately responsible for fatalities, Congress continues to push for potentially dangerous rule changes.
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Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) claim multiple technologies within a semi-truck cab may decrease the accident risks associated with driver fatigue. According to VTTI Senior Research Associate Dr. Gregory M. Fitch, nearly 80 percent of truck accidents occur while a driver is not looking forward when a vehicle ahead begins to stop. Because of this, technologies such as forward collision, lane change, and eye glance warning systems may help sleepy drivers avoid a crash.

Currently, many individual technologies designed to increase truck driver safety reportedly exist. VTTI’s Darrell S. Bowman claims that multiple safety measures are more effective at combating driver drowsiness than any single technology. Bowman stated a combination of technologies tends to improves quality and reliability because each one has different limitations. He believes a variety of in-cab safety tools could make it easier for commercial drivers to know when to find an appropriate place to stop and rest before they fall asleep behind the wheel.

According to a VTTI Specialist in Behavior-Based Safety Research, Dr. Jeff Hickman, many of the same technologies used to combat driver fatigue may also protect against driver distractions. Additionally, mobile phone signal blocking equipment and in-dash cameras may also be used to increase 18-wheeler driver safety.
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A report recently created by Oregon-based data mining firm Vigillo, LLC claims state and county authorities across the contiguous 48 states enforce trucking laws in an inconsistent manner. To create the report, the company allegedly compared inspections, collisions, and citations by county based upon commercial vehicle miles travelled. According to Vigillo’s Chief Executive Officer, Steven Bryan, the report was created after a number of company employees heard anecdotal evidence that Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) inspections were performed inconsistently across the nation.

Bryan said the data analyzed indicates a number of local trends. For example, an Arizona county that borders Mexico allegedly issued the most violations to truck drivers who do not speak English. Likewise, a Maryland county apparently issued more citations related to tire tread issues than anywhere else in the country. Bryan said there was no indication each county or individual officer was intentionally focusing on any one particular aspect of enforcement. Instead, he stated the goal of the report was to demonstrate that federal trucking rules and regulations are not being applied in a uniform and consistent manner.

CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative designed to increase tractor-trailer and bus safety through a decrease in commercial vehicle collisions, injuries, and related deaths. Under the program, truck drivers are scored based upon roadside inspections and other factors. Those scores are then used to issue warning letters, audits, and further inspection. In some cases, the FMCSA may force a trucking or other commercial vehicle company to discontinue operations.
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A report recently published by the nation’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims workers over age 65 are at least three times more likely to be killed in a highway accident than workers who are between the ages of 18 and 54. As part of the study, researchers from the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health analyzed data from nearly 12,000 workers who were involved in a fatal occupational highway transportation incident between 2008 and 2010. Although about 27 percent of those killed were over age 55, death rates were apparently highest for full-time workers over age 65.

According to CDC researchers, the highest proportion of individuals killed overall were involved in a semi-truck collision. 31 percent of those who died in an occupational highway transportation incident that involved a tractor-trailer were between the ages of 18 and 54. In addition, 37 percent of those between 55 and 64 died in a wreck involving an 18-wheeler, and 22 percent of those over age 65 were killed in an accident with a semi.

David Kelley, former Acting Administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and current Executive Director of the National Coalition for Safer Roads, stated the data demonstrates that transportation employers should offer improved training to all workers. He added that all Americans who drive for a living should refrain from using electronic devices while behind the wheel, remain sober, and always wear a safety belt.
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