Safer Trucks, Safer Roads

Data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) tells us that, in 2011, accidents involving large trucks took the lives of 3,341 people and injured 60,000, so we were very glad to read that one trucking company, Con-Way Freight out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is putting Drive Safe Systems in their truck fleet.

The Drive Safe System provides in-cab alerts to the truck driver when it senses potential safety risks. It also includes automatic avoidance mechanisms. The collision avoidance feature, for example, works by automatically slowing the truck when forward-looking radar senses it is too rapidly approaching a vehicle ahead and the driver does not engage the brakes. A lane departure warning sounds an audible alert if the truck’s position relative to highway lane markings indicates the driver has unintentionally veered out of the lane. Designed to help drivers improve their defensive-driving skills, windshield-mounted event recorders will continuously record activity inside and outside the cab; an event such as hard braking, turning or rapid deceleration will trigger storage of an audio/visual recording of the eight seconds before and four seconds after the event.

Tom Clark, Con-way Freight’s senior vice president of operations, said, “Before we reacted after-the-fact, analyzing accidents and why they occurred. Now we’ve flipped the process, focusing instead on using technology and real-time information as a positive, proactive coaching experience to adjust behaviors, remove risk, prevent incidents and improve safety.” All worthy objectives.

Con-way’s announcement follows close on the heels of a February announcement by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that they will “begin taking steps to enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology for light vehicles,” i.e., cars. V2V technology allows vehicles to communicate with each other through Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), a technology similar to Wi-Fi. Then data is communicated to the car’s driver to help avoid crashes.

NHTSA’s decision to go forward with V2V, including a possible eventual mandate, was based on a year-long pilot program in Ann Arbor (“coincidentally?” the home of Con-way Freight). There, 3,000 vehicles with DSRC capability were driven by trained volunteers over 73 lane-miles of typical city streets and freeways. NHTSA estimates that implementation of V2V technology could potentially address 80 percent of common crashes, such as crashes at intersections or while changing lanes.

At McNeely Stephenson, we’ve been assisting people injured in car and truck crashes for more than thirty years. Our Indianapolis car accident lawyers can help if you or a loved one has been harmed by a truck driver who was negligent, distracted or impaired. But, in truth, we would rather see our roads become safer places for everyone, and perhaps V2V and Drive Safe System technologies will make that a reality.

For help with an Indiana motor vehicle accident, call Mike Stephenson at 1-855-206-2555.