According to recent statistics, 3,986 people were killed in commercial truck accidents in 2016, and only 17 percent of those people were the occupants of commercial trucks. In fact, a staggering 66 percent of all deaths involving commercial truck were drivers and passengers in other vehicles, and another 16 percent were pedestrians, bicycle riders and motorcyclists. And since 2007, there has been a 27-percent increase in the number of fatalities involving commercial trucks.
So it’s no surprise that the government has been trying to lower the number of truck accidents in the U.S., and one of the ways they have proposed to do that is by introducing speed limiters.
In August 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed that all commercial truck carriers install speed limiters in their vehicles.
This proposal has been met with a fair amount of debate between truck carriers, truck lobbyists and the government, and while the speed limiters remain only a possibility as opposed to an actual regulation, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of these devices as it relates to lowering truck accident rates.
What Are Speed Limiters and How Could They Lower the Number of Truck Accidents?
Speed limiters are devices that prevent a vehicle from exceeding a preset speed limit. When the FMCSA made its proposal in 2016, it had not decided on a speed limit it felt would be appropriate, so it proposed three limits: 60 miles per hour, 65 mph and 68 mph.
When installed, speed limiters automatically keep a vehicle at the preset limit no matter what a driver does to increase that speed.
The FMCSA made the proposal because it has identified speed as one of the primary factors that causes commercial truck accidents.
In fact, the term ‘speeding of any kind’ has been one of the most significant factors in commercial truck accidents for the past decade, and that isn’t surprising, because when commercial truck drivers speed, several things happen, including:
- They Lose Control – Truck drivers can quickly lose control of their vehicles when they exceed the posted speed limit. And a 26-ton truck that careens out of control can cause devastating damage when it hits smaller vehicles or even a pedestrian.
- They Fail To Brake In Time – It takes much longer to bring a commercial vehicle to a stop than it does to bring a car or small truck to a stop. So when a truck driver is speeding, he or she often can’t brake in time to prevent a rear-end accident or some other type of impact on the road.
- They Hit Other Vehicles With Greater Impact – Speeding also significantly increases the severity of impact when a commercial truck hits another vehicle. This often means that injuries caused by a speeding truck are much more severe than injuries caused by a truck that is traveling below the speed limit.
Because of these realities, the FMCSA believes that curbing the maximum speed of a commercial truck can help to lower situations that lead to fatal crashes.
IIHS Study Shows Link Between Speed Limits and Accidents
And a study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) has supported the FMCSA’s belief that excessive speed causes accidents.
The IIHS study found that if speed limits had remained where they were in 1993, 30,000 lives could have been saved from 1993 to 2013.
In other words, the IIHS found that as speed limits throughout the U.S. increased, there was also a corresponding increase in crashes that could directly or indirectly be attributed to speeding.
Speed limiters could provide a technological barrier to the tendency of commercial truck drivers to speed in an effort to meet strict delivery deadlines, and create a culture in which those drivers learned to maintain a reasonable and safe speed.
The Debate About the Pros and Cons of Speed Limiters
Since the FMCSA proposed its speed limiter regulation, there has been fierce debate on both sides of the issue.
The Owner-Operated Independence Drivers Association (OOIDA), one of the premier commercial truck organizations, does not believe that speed limiters are the answer to lowering the rate of truck accidents.
OOIDA spokespersons argue that speed limiters would create speed differentials that could cause even more accidents.
Speed differentials refers to the difference in traveling speed between vehicles on the road. The OOIDA argues that commercial trucks with speed limiters would travel at a lower speed than other vehicles on the road, and that these differentials would create more crashes.
The FMCSA countered that argument by saying that speed differentials already exist, and that the installation of speed limiters would save thousands of lives and also save more than $1 billion in fuel costs every year.
And seven states have already set lower speed limits for commercial trucks, which the FMCSA believes points to the value of restricting the speed of these vehicles.
As of now, however, the new presidential administration has shown no interest in bringing the speed limiter proposal to a formal hearing, so the proposal remains stalled unless a government official breathes new life into it.
Finding An Advocate For Your Personal Injury
While the debate over the effectiveness of speed limiters continues to rage between truck carriers and the government, commercial truck drivers are still causing devastating accidents that leave both physical and psychological scars. If you have been injured in an accident in which a commercial truck driver was at fault, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, loss of income, and your pain and suffering. But it’s important that you secure representation as soon as possible, because the more time that passes, the more time that truck carrier’s insurance company can mount a case against you. The Law Team of Fetterman & Associates has been helping personal injury clients for more than 40 years. Please call us today at 561-845-2510 to schedule a free case evaluation.