Trucking accidents cause many deaths each year. In fact, according to Road Safe America, highway accidents claim more than 42 000 lives each year. This is equivalent to the amount of people who would fill 200 commercial airliners. In fact, in order for aviation accidents to have the same death rate as highway accidents, there would have to be more than 16 aviation accidents involving commercial airlines a month.
These statistics do not even take into consideration the many personal injuries which trucking accidents cause. Trucking accidents often cause brain injuries, amputations, spinal cord injuries, broken limbs, burn injuries, and other serious injuries. This is above and beyond the financial and property damage such accidents inflict. For many survivors “lucky” enough to escape fatalities in a trucking accident, life-long injuries are the result.
Stephen C. Owings helped found Road Safe America, an advocacy group which aims to prevent trucking accidents. Owings believes that we are far more lax about traffic safety and trucking accident prevention than we are about airline safety. Partly, he feels this is because we have become immune to the many news stories about such accidents. Research seems to prove him right. According to Dr. Linda Degutis of the American Public Health Association, studies show that most Americans do not believe that highway accidents are preventable.
Research has also suggested that in order to make roads safer, we need to focus on commercial trucks specifically. According to studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, trucks weighing more than 26,000 pounds account for 20% of all multi-car fatal accidents, even though these large trucks constitute only 1% of all vehicles on the roads. These trucks cause 5,000 fatalities and more than 100,000 injuries each year. Simply reducing the accidents involving these trucks can considerably reduce traffic fatalities and injuries. However, again, few people see large commercial trucks as a serious problem.
Some people – including Stephen C. Owings – believe that the answers are simple. Simply setting speed governors on heavy trucks to 68 mph or slower, they believe, will have a big impact on truck accidents. All trucks have been equipped with speed governors since the 1990s. Ensuring that these devices are used to slow trucks down even more, advocates argue, will mean safer roads.
In Japan, Europe, some of Canada, and Australia, speed governors on trucks are set to 68 mph or below for heavy trucks. However, some advocates of the plan note that a lax attitude is preventing similar legislation here. Lawmakers are simply too caught up in other issues to pay attention to a problem that has claimed so many lives.