They are the biggest, most dangerous vehicles rolling into and out of Rapid City on Interstate 90. Tractor-trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds – more than 13 times the weight of the heaviest SUVs available at South Dakota new car dealerships.
Those 18-wheelers are not only the heaviest vehicles, they’re also the tallest, widest, hardest to maneuver and the most difficult to bring to a stop. That combination of factors makes big commercial rigs the most dangerous.
The odds are against you in a crash
In commercial truck accidents, the occupants of passenger vehicles are more than four times as likely to sustain serious injuries or be killed than truck occupants, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The federal Department of Transportation (of which the NHTSA is a part) recently announced that it will require automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems on new heavy trucks.
“We are glad to see NHTSA finally take the next step in making large trucks safer by mandating AEB,” said Jason Levine, director of the Center for Auto Safety. The group has advocated the requirement since 2015.
“Unfortunately, at this rate, it will still be years until the technology that could help stop the 5,000 truck crash deaths on our roads is required,” Levine added.
A significant safety improvement
In a study published last year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that AEB and forward collision warning systems could prevent more than 40 percent of crashes in which big rigs rear-end other vehicles.
The IIHS said that when an 18-wheeler equipped with systems is involved in a rear-end collision, the systems reduce speeds by more than half, which reduces the severity of injuries to occupants of passenger vehicles.
While the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association – a trade group representing independent truckers – said it’s too soon to require AEB systems on big rigs, Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said regulators are moving too slowly to make tractor-trailers safer.
A call to action
“People are dying on the roads – 5,000 people are dying on the roads each year,” Chase said, “and we have proven solutions. We would like to see more immediate action.”
The NHTSA recently estimated that 4,895 people were killed in heavy truck accidents across the U.S. last year. The agency did not provide figures for how many people were injured in the crashes.
Those who have been injured in a South Dakota commercial truck accident can pursue full compensation with the help of an attorney experienced in personal injury litigation.