Truck crash fatalities rise, NHTSA criticized for inaction

Fatal truck crashes are going up in Kentucky and across the U.S. There were 4,102 large truck crash fatalities in 2017, representing a 28 percent jump from 2009. Rear-end accidents are especially widespread, yet it is these types of accidents that can most easily be avoided with new safety technology, according to truck safety groups.

The National Transportation Safety Board, in particular, recommends that all heavy trucks be required to have forward crash warning and mitigation systems. These systems can alert drivers when advancing toward stationary or slow-moving objects. On at least 10 different occasions since the 1990s, the NTSB has made this recommendation to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, yet the latter has failed to propose any regulations.

The NHTSA is currently studying forward warning crash systems and automatic emergency braking. It will complete field operation testing on the latter in 18 to 24 months. Critics say that the NHTSA is suffering from paralysis by analysis, and the critics push for the NHTSA to consider devices that are currently available and already proven to save lives.

The above-mentioned safety devices are already common on some new vehicles, and the auto industry expects them to become standard on all U.S. vehicles by 2022. However, the trucking industry lags behind in terms of technological advancement, an unfortunate fact as freight shipments by truck continue to rise.

When truck crashes do not end in fatalities, they could still leave victims with serious injuries that require long-term medical care. In the event that trucker negligence was involved, victims may be able to file a personal injury claim, but they may want to see a lawyer before moving ahead. A lawyer may speak on victims' behalf at the negotiation table or in the courtroom. Third-party investigators might even be called in to build up the case.

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