Front crash prevention works for large trucks

Most automobile drivers don’t like driving on highways with a lot of large trucks. In our rural North Country, there are many tractor-trailer trucks on our state highways, and for those who drive on interstate highways, a largepercentage of traffic is large trucks.

Drivers of large trucks are professional drivers and are generally safe drivers. Nevertheless, when an automobile and a large truck collide, the truck most always wins.

However, better days are coming. Equipping large trucks with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems could eliminate more than 2 out of 5 crashes in which a large truck rear-ends another vehicle, a new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study suggests.

IIHS Director of Statistical Services Eric Teoh examined data on crashes per vehicle mile traveled from 62 carriers operating tractor-trailers and other trucks weighing at least 33,000 pounds. He found that trucks equipped with forward collision warning had 22% fewer crashes and that trucks with AEB had 12% fewer crashes than those without either technology. Forward collision warning and AEB reduced rear-end crashes — the specific type of collision they’re designed to prevent — by 44% and 41%, respectively, according to an article in the October issue of IIHS’s Status Report.

Most Franklin County residents will remember the horrific crash that happened in July 2012, when a tractor-trailer crashed into several cars that were stopped on U.S. 11 in a work zone for repaving on Route 11 near Antwerp in Jefferson County. In this case, the driver was found guilty of wrongful deaths of the six people from St. Lawrence and Franklin counties that were killed. This is exactly the type of crash that might have been prevented or at least modified had that 57,000-pound truck been equipped with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.

Although their drivers crash less often per mile traveled, large trucks can be especially deadly because they can weigh 20 to 30 times as much as passenger vehicles. Teoh’s study provides evidence that forward collision warning and AEB greatly reduce crash risk for tractor-trailers and other large trucks. The European Union has required AEB with forward collision warning on most new heavy trucks since November 2013, according to the article in Status Report.

The study indicated that AEB and forward collision warning are both likely to have benefits beyond the reduction in crashes. Some crashes that aren’t prevented by the systems are made less severe, thanks to a reduction in impact speed. This is true whether it’s the automated system applying the brakes or a human driver who has more time to react because of a warning. In reviewing the trucks that rear-ended other vehicles, Teoh found that either system resulted in speed reductions of more than 50% between the warning or automatic braking and the impact.

“The potential benefits are great enough that these crash avoidance systems should be standard equipment on all new large trucks,” says IIHS President David Harkey. Let’s hope that lawmakers will see the safety value in doing so.


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