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Can more stringent regulations help prevent truck accidents?

Statistics show that approximately 10 percent of fatalities on highways can be linked to crashes involving large trucks, while most of the deceased victims in these truck accidents are passengers in cars that are involved. Federal laws, which govern truckers in New Jersey and all other states, already exist in an attempt to decrease the number and impact of truck accidents. Even so, some are questioning the need for even more stringent regulations.

When one considers that trucks sit much higher than cars, it should come as no surprise that cars often slide underneath trucks during accidents. This often leads to fatalities; therefore, trucks are required to have underride guards. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found that federal safety requirements fall short as underride guards meeting the required standards often fail even in low speed crashes. As a result, the IIHS have asked for stronger guards to be required, as well as a broadening of the regulations to include a larger variety of trucks.

The sheer weight of trucks also plays a role in tractor-trailer accidents because trucks take longer to stop when braking. This is particularly true in adverse weather conditions, and especially true when a truck’s braking system is not properly maintained. At the same time, trucks turn over easier, resulting in requests being made to regulators to require companies to fit electronic stability control devices in order to decrease accidents.

A last matter of concern relates to driver fatigue. There is no doubt that fatigued drivers are a crash risk. Logbooks are easy to falsify and surveys have proven that drivers often drive longer than the 11 hours they are allowed under federal law. Electronic onboard recorders are one way of ensuring compliance with regulations as they would record when trucks are driven.

Hopefully, more stringent regulations will indeed decrease the number of truck accidents that result in fatalities on New Jersey highways. However, no regulations can eliminate fatalities completely. For those who have lost a loved one in a truck accident, the option remains to file a wrongful death claim in civil court. Although this type of claim cannot bring a loved one back, it can sometimes ease the transition into life after an accident.

Source: iihs.org, “Large trucks: topic overview“, Dec. 1, 2014