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AAA Says Truck Safety Tech Could Stop 63,000 Crashes, 293 Deaths Annually

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Installing advanced safety technologies on all large trucks could potentially prevent 63,000 crashes, 17,733 injuries and 293 deaths annually, according to an AAA report released Thursday.

“There’s no question that truck safety technology saves lives,” said David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

New research proves the benefits of “adding many of these technologies to trucks clearly outweigh the costs,” Yang said.

Large trucks with a gross vehicle rating of more than 10,000 pounds were involved in 400,000 crashes, resulting in more than 4,000 deaths and 116,000 injuries in 2015, AAA said. This is a 4 percent increase from 2014. Data for 2016 are not yet available.

The report, “Leveraging Large Truck Technology and Engineering to Realize Safety Gains,” performed benefit-cost analyses on four advanced safety technologies and found that all could prevent crashes, injuries and deaths on American highways each year.

Many large motor carriers have already begun equipping their trucks with these advanced safety technologies. But much of it has yet to make its way down to smaller fleets and independent drivers.

There are more than 3.5 million truck drivers on U.S. highways.

The AAA report broke down the number of lives that could potentially be saved using four advanced safety technologies.

The organization found that installing lane-departure warning systems could potentially prevent 6,372 crashes, 1,342 injuries and 115 deaths annually.

Installing video-based onboard safety monitoring systems could prevent 63,000 crashes, 17,733 injuries and 293 deaths each year.

Large trucks equipped with automatic emergency braking systems could possibly save 5,294 crashes, 2,753 injuries and 55 deaths per year.

Air disc brakes on existing and new trucks could potentially prevent 2,411 crashes, 1,447 injuries and 37 deaths annually.

The number of crashes, injuries and fatalities add up to less than the sum of the total prevented for each technology because there is substantial overlap in the collisions addressed by each safety system, AAA said.

The report’s estimates for preventing crashes, injuries and fatalities are based on installing the equipment on all used and new trucks. AAA calculated the economic value of the estimated crash reduction by looking at the cost of medical care, emergency medical services, property damage, lost productivity and the monetized value of pain, suffering and quality-of-life loss. That was offset against trucking industry expenses of hardware installation, purchase, financing, maintenance, replacement of systems, training of drivers and training of managers where applicable. The costs were based on published reports, information from technology vendors and recommendations from the expert advisory panel.

The AAA report included a survey that found that 61 percent of U.S. drivers feel less safe driving around large commercial trucks than passenger cars because of the trucks’ large size and length, blind spots and potential to drift out of their lanes. Twenty-six percent of those surveyed said that adding safety technology to large trucks “would help them feel better about sharing the road.”

“Adding these safety technologies to the trucking fleet is not only cost effective, but doing so helps to alleviate driver concerns and prevents crashes,” said Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety, advocacy and research at AAA.

The research was based on best-available studies and recommendations by an expert advisory panel made up of federal government experts and the trucking industry. The report included data on the rates of large truck crashes from 2010 to 2015.

The technologies have already proven useful in preventing light vehicle collisions.

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that lane-departure warning lowers rates of single-vehicle, side-swipe and head-on crashes of all severities by 11 percent and lowers the rates of injury crashes of the same types by 21 percent.

Other IIHS research found that front collision alerts with automatic emergency braking slashes the rate of front-to-rear crashes in light vehicles by half and that rearview cameras can prevent about 1 in 6 backing crashes.

IIHS also is pushing for safety upgrades for trucks.

It wants the industry to install guards that attach to the sides of tractor-trailers to prevent cars from sliding underneath in crashes. These so-called underride crashes were responsible for 301 deaths in 2015, according to the insurance industry trade group. Tractor-trailers are required under federal regulations to have rear underride guards but not side guards.

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