What is the issue?
Regardless of a driver's skills, sudden changes by other drivers and changes in vehicle controllability pose significant safety risks. For unaware drivers, the consequences can be deadly. Some of the most deadly accident circumstances involve rear-end collisions, run-off-the road, loss of control, speeding, and out-of-adjustment brakes—which are often not under the control of a single person. In June 2009, a truck driver did not react to the queue of slowing and stopped vehicles ahead and collided with 6 passenger vehicles in Miami, Oklahoma, because of fatigue. If a driver receives warnings of an imminent collision, he or she may be able to bring the vehicle to a safe and controlled stop.
What can be done . . .
There are technologies that can work with the driver to improve driver reaction time. Lane departure warning, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, and electronic stability control have all been proven to aid drivers when they are faced with unexpected conditions, particularly when traveling at highway speeds or when operating larger commercial vehicles that require greater stopping distances. Other systems, such as tire pressure monitoring, onboard monitoring (for commercial drivers), and speed-limiting technology, can warn drivers of imminent threats or diminish the possibility of encountering dangerous conditions.
These technologies are available today in many vehicles. However, they are options that a vehicle owner can add, and some technologies are not even required to meet performance standards. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should establish performance standards where still needed and mandate that these technologies be included as standard equipment in cars and commercial motor vehicles alike. Their full life-saving and crash-avoidance potential will not be realized until supported by federal rulemaking and related standards.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that run-off-road, rear-end, and lane change maneuvers account for 23, 28, and 9 percent of highway accidents, respectively. Vehicle collision avoidance technologies can prevent these types of accidents. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that forward collision warning can prevent 879 fatal crashes annually for passenger vehicles and 115 fatal crashes annually for large trucks. The Insurance Institute estimates that lane departure warning can prevent 247 fatal crashes annually, and electronic stability control, 439 fatal crashes annually. With such promising potential to improve highway safety, this technology should be robustly deployed throughout the passenger and commercial fleets.
- Special Investigation Report: Highway - Rear-End Collision Prevention Technologies
- Highway Accident Report: Truck-Tractor Semitrailer Rollover and Motorcoach Collision With Overturned Truck Interstate Highway 94, Osseo, Wisconsin, October 16, 2005
- Highway Accident Report: Motorcoach Run-off-The-Bridge and Rollover, Sherman, Texas, August 8, 2008
- Highway Accident Report: Bus Loss of Control and Rollover, Dolan Springs, Arizona, January 30, 2009
- Highway Accident Report: Rollover of a Truck-Tractor and Cargo Tank Semitrailer Carrying Liquefied Petroleum Gas and Subsequent Fire, Indianapolis, Indiana, October 22, 2009
- Board Meeting: Tanker Truck Overturn and Fire, Indianapolis, IN, October 22, 2009 (July 26, 2011)
- Board Meeting: Bus Loss of Control and Rollover, Dolan Springs, Arizona, January 30, 2009 (June 22, 2010)
- Highway Accident Report: Motorcoach Run-Off-The-Bridge and Rollover, Sherman, Texas, August 8, 2008 (October 27, 2009)
- Board Meeting: Truck -Tractor Semitrailer Rollover and Motorcoach collision With Overturned Truck, Interstate Highway 94, Near Osseo, Wisconsin, October 16, 2005 (September 16, 2008)
* This is not a comprehensive list of all reports and events related to this issue.