Automatic emergency braking systems would become mandatory safety equipment on all heavy commercial vehicles in West Virginia and around the country if a bill currently being considered by the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee is signed into law. Road safety groups, like the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Truck Safety Coalition, say the passage of the Safe Roads Act would prevent deadly truck crashes caused by impaired, distracted or fatigued truck drivers. However, some organizations that lobby for the logistics industry oppose the legislation.
Commercial motor vehicle drivers, especially truck drivers, in West Virginia should know that a bill has been introduced that may require them to have automatic emergency braking on their vehicles. Lawmakers proposed the Safe Roads Act of 2019 (H.R. 3773) on July 16, 2019, after being prompted by the Truck Safety Coalition, a safety nonprofit.
Large truck accidents have increased in West Virginia and across the U.S. over the past few years. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that accidents involving large trucks caused 4,237 deaths and 344,000 injuries in 2017, which represents a 10% increase over 2016. Despite this, the U.S. Department of Transportation is reportedly preparing to loosen hours-of-service regulations for truckers.
Truck drivers who operate vehicles in West Virginia need to make safety their top priority. Otherwise, they could lose their jobs and put other lives in jeopardy. However, drivers of passenger vehicles can take steps to help keep the roads safe as well. For instance, a survey of commercial truck drivers conducted by Teletrac Navman found that failing to signal a lane change was among the top concerns drivers had.
Speed continues to kill motorists in West Virginia and across the U.S. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speed played a role in 26% of all fatal traffic accidents nationwide in 2017, claiming the lives of 9,717 people. In addition, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance says that speed has been a contributing factor in almost one-third of all the deadly crashes that have occurred over the last 20 years.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that, while motor vehicle crash fatalities went down 2% between 2016 and 2017, truck crash fatalities went up 9% from 4,369 to 4,761. This has marked 2017 as the year with the most truck crash deaths since 1988. Truckers and passenger vehicle drivers in West Virginia may want to know more.
Out of the more than 34,000 deadly car crashes that occur every year in West Virginia and the rest of the U.S., about 4,000 involve at least one large truck or bus. The number of truck crashes has risen in Florida especially, going from 23,515 in 2014 to 32,513 in 2018. A 2017 report from the Florida Department of Transportation found that speeding was the number one driver-related factor in these crashes.
West Virginia motorists may be particularly worried about the dangers of truck accidents, because crashes involving semi-trucks and passenger vehicles are far more harmful to the occupants of smaller vehicles. The size and mass of large trucks mean that anyone in a crash with them is at a significant risk for a serious injury. In addition, the nature of the trucking industry can also contribute to the likelihood of an accident. After a long day on the road, even experienced truck drivers can become fatigued behind the wheel.
Each year, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance holds a three-day inspection spree called the International Roadcheck. During this event, CMV drivers in West Virginia and across the US are liable to be stopped at random for inspections. If they pass, they receive a CVSA decal as an indicator. If not, they are issued out-of-service orders.
It's safe to assume that anyone in West Virginia who shares the road with large trucks has a vested interest in doing everything possible to improve safety. This is why two groups, the Truck Safety Coalition and Road Safe America, are asking lawmakers in Congress to require certain trucks to be outfitted with specially designed safety devices.