President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety,
On New Public Opinion Poll on Lifesaving Large Truck Equipment
The Public Overwhelming Supports Speed Limiters and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) on Trucks, Yet U.S. DOT Unnecessarily Delays and Denies Progress on Proven Safety Technology.
Time for Congress to Take Action.
Today, a new poll commissioned by Road Safe America revealed that Americans overwhelmingly support Congress requiring the use of speed limiters and automatic emergency braking (AEB) on large trucks. This clarion call for proven safety technology is warranted considering the skyrocketing number of fatal truck crashes on our roads. New data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that crash fatalities involving large trucks have jumped a stunning 41 percent since 2009. In 2017, more than 4,700 people were needlessly killed in truck crashes. In 2016, the most recent year for which this data is available, 145,000 people were injured in truck crashes. Further, in fatal two-vehicle crashes between a large truck and a passenger motor vehicle, 97 percent of the fatalities were occupants of the passenger vehicle, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The good news is that successful countermeasures are available.
Research demonstrates that speed limiters, which are used in the European Union, Japan, Australia and other regions, can reduce large truck collisions and fatalities. In 2016, NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a proposed rule to require commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) over 26,000 pounds to be equipped with a speed limiting device. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has found that AEB systems are effective at preventing large truck crashes. In 2015, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), Road Safe America, the Center for Auto Safety and the Truck Safety Coalition petitioned NHTSA to require AEB systems to be in all CMVs over 10,000 pounds. However, the U.S. DOT has failed to follow through on either of these actions to require these effective safety technologies in all trucks, and it is time for Congress to listen to the powerful message sent by this survey and mandate their use.
In addition to requiring these safety technologies in trucks, there is also tremendous potential to prevent and mitigate crashes in passenger vehicles. AEB systems, forward collision warning and other technologies, which have been shown to reduce collisions, should be standard equipment in all new vehicles, and not sold as part of an expensive luxury package. According to IIHS, forward collision warning in combination with AEB reduced front-to-rear crashes by 50 percent. Congress should direct the U.S. DOT to issue minimum standards for this technology to save lives now.
Instead of moving forward with requiring proven safety technologies in trucks and cars, Congress is pushing dangerously flawed legislation to open the floodgates for the sale of potentially millions of highly complex, unproven driverless cars exempt from federal safety standards. While in the long term driverless technology offers the promise of improved safety and mobility, recent deadly crashes involving the technology as well as warnings from experts like IIHS show that it’s simply not ready for prime time. Moreover, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has open investigations involving vehicle crashes with autonomous capabilities. Their forthcoming recommendations should be used to inform Congress on our Nation’s first legislative policy on driverless cars. Advocates urges the U.S. Senate to hit the brakes on the AV START Act (S. 1885) unless necessary safety improvements are made.
Advocates commends Steve Owings, the co-founder of Road Safe America, for commissioning this critically important public opinion survey. Steve and his wife Susan’s son Cullum was tragically killed in 2002 by a speeding truck driver, and they have tirelessly and relentlessly led the charge to get speed limiters in all trucks as well as to advance other truck safety issues. We urge Congress to listen to the telling results of this survey and take action now to require proven truck safety technologies on our roadways. On the path to autonomous vehicles, we should not accept or be complacent about the fact that absent a change in current circumstances, more than 500,000 people will be killed and more than 36 million more will be injured in crashes over the next 15 years.