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NHTSA Failure to Mandate Crash Avoidance Systems for Large Trucks Costing Lives

NHTSA Failure to Mandate Crash Avoidance Systems for Large Trucks Costing Lives

At least 300 people die annually on the nation’s roads and highways when their vehicles are rear-ended by an 18-wheeler or other large, commercial truck.

Some 15,000 others are injured in connection with such crashes.

Yet the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) continues to resist regulations that experts say could prevent these collisions and save numerous lives.

“They are absolutely a culpable villain in this picture,” Steve Owings, co-founder of Road Safe America, recently told the Kansas City Star.

“We need to hold them accountable.”

Owings helped found the advocacy group after his son was killed in a rear-end truck collision over a decade ago

On at least 10 occasions since the late 1990s, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has urged the NHTSA to require the use of forward crash avoidance and mitigation systems on all heavy trucks.

Yet the regulator has not even bothered to propose such a rule, let alone enact one.

“Many of these crashes could have been mitigated, or possibly even prevented, had rear-end collision avoidance technologies been in place,” the Board asserted in a 2016 report that criticized the NHTSA’s failure to act.

Crash Avoidance Systems Can Compensate for Human Error, Truck Driver Impairment

According to the NTSB, the three most common causes of fatal truck crashes include speeding, distracted driving, and driver impairment.

The crash prevention systems recommended by the Board are designed to compensate for human failure and misbehavior.

Yet, while the auto industry plans to make automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning systems standard equipment on all new passenger vehicles by 2022, big truck manufacturers have made no such commitment.

NHTSA is Often Slow to Act on New Regulations

Unfortunately, the NTSB’s authority is limited.

While the Board can recommend new regulations, the NHTSA alone has the authority to act.

What’s more, the NHTSA can spend years – even decades — studying a problem before it finally proposes regulations in response to NTSB recommendations.

“You see this over and over and over again,” Jennette Fennell, founder of,  told the Star.

“Lives are being needlessly taken.”

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