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FMCSA plans new crash study as trucker distractions rise

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released the findings of its last large-truck crash causation study back in 2006. Drivers in West Virginia probably understand that a lot has changed since then. Texting and other phone use behind the wheel has grown to be habitual for many drivers, and truckers are becoming distracted by new tech like navigation and fleet management systems.

In a formal proposal made in January 2020, the FMCSA stated its intention of conducting another large-truck crash causation study. This study would take the new factors into account that are reported in tow-away, injury and fatal crashes. The FMCSA is fielding comments on how to best approach this new study: for example, whether it should use a nationally representative sampling or a convenience sampling.

Technological changes are not the only changes to consider. Roadway designs have changed, and drivers' behaviors are being shaped by the presence of safety features like automatic emergency braking. The FMCSA intends to create crash prevention strategies even for vehicles with Level 4 (high) or Level 5 (full) automation.

It will also gauge the effectiveness of current driver-assistance systems and determine what should be incorporated in future automated driving systems for commercial fleets. The study will undoubtedly benefit, considering how fatal large-truck crashes have gone up 5.7% from 2016 to 2018.

Besides distractions, there are a number of things that can contribute to truck crashes, including alcohol, drugs and lack of sleep. Those who are injured by jackknifed trucks, trucks that drift out of their lane or trucks that run traffic lights may file a claim against the trucking company. With a lawyer, they might be able to achieve a fair settlement out of court. Trucking companies can be aggressive in denying claims, though, so litigation may be necessary.

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