According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,757 people across the country were killed in truck collisions in 2011, compared with 3,686 in 2010. This represents a 1.9% increase in the number of fatalities between the two years. In many cases, these accidents were single-vehicle truck accidents. In 2010, there were 339 truck driver fatalities in single-vehicle accidents, compared with 403 such fatalities in 2011. According to the NHTSA, this is the second year in a row where these numbers have risen, despite new regulations that are supposed to make streets safer.
According to some experts, the number of single-vehicle crashes as well as new research linking driver condition to truck accidents may mean that in the future there will be more emphasis on holding truck drivers accountable and ensuring that they are safe behind the wheel. This is a departure from past years, where the focus has been on mechanical issues of trucks and on enforcing laws such as speed limits.
What can be done to prevent truck accidents in Miami and across South Florida? Many suggestions have been put forward:
1) Some have suggested more attention should be paid to the physical condition of drivers. Studies have shown that drivers with very high BMIs have higher crash rates and are more at risk of conditions such as sleep apnea, which can severely affect driving ability. Fatigue can also lead to truck accidents and car accidents in Miami and other Florida communities. Currently, commercial truck drivers must get physicals and must submit to drug and alcohol testing, but experts think that more can be done to ensure that drivers do not suffer from sleep apnea and other conditions that could cause accidents.
2) Some experts recommend more accountability for drivers and truck companies who break rules or take risks. Some companies and drivers circumvent rules for profit. In other cases, drivers and companies take risks that do not officially break laws but which still put drivers at risk.
3) Some experts believe that limiting the speed and size of trucks further would be beneficial. The truck industry has largely been in favor of higher speeds and larger trucks, arguing that larger trucks and speeds would be more cost effective and that larger trucks might be safer on the roads, since they would eliminate the need for more commercial trucks on the roadways. Most experts disagree with this, claiming that smaller trucks and lower speed limits would make it easier for truck drivers to keep control of their trucks.
4) Some safety professionals feel that technology can help make trucks safer. Technology already exists that would make it possible to keep track of how fast commercial truck drivers drive, how often they take breaks, and even their blood pressure and heart rates. Some experts feel that installing this type of additional technology would make it easier to track what truck drivers do on the roads – and the risks they take. This, they argue, would make it easier to curb risky behaviors that could lead to traffic accidents in Miami and elsewhere across the country.
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