Every truck driver and trucking company has a responsibility to prevent truck accidents in Fort Worth. Truckers should exercise reasonable precautions and drive safely, while trucking companies should be careful in their hiring practices. Although individual drivers and trucking companies have a big role to play in preventing truck accidents, there are others who need to do their part as well. In particular, federal regulatory agencies should impose stricter regulations to address some of the most important issues for truck safety.
Federal Regulators and Truck Accident Prevention
In December of 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making indicating the agency would be modifying the rules related to required underride protection. Underride protection is safety equipment designed to prevent cars from going under trucks when a car and truck are involved in a collision. Current rules for underride protections are inadequate, and the NHTSA aims to impose stricter regulations so fewer underride accidents happen.
This is good news, although the rule making process will take a long time - the new rules will not immediately begin providing protection for motorists from deadly underride truck accidents. The bad news is that the proposed rule comes too late to save the lives of hundreds of people who have died in truck accidents already. Consumer Affairs reported recently on an advocacy group called AnnaLeah and Mary for Truck Safety, named after two sisters who were killed when a tractor-trailer with an overtired driver hit their vehicle. Because there were inadequate underride protections, their car got trapped underneath the truck. The lives of the sisters could perhaps have been saved if there were underride protections in place at the time.
There should have been protections in place, because the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been warning the NHTSA about underride accident risks and urging strict regulations on underride protection for more than a decade. It is only now, however, that NHTSA has finally decided to initiate action.
Part of why the NHTSA may not have acted sooner is that the agency has limited resources. Safety groups have criticized the fact that the NHTSA only gets two percent of the Department of Transportation's (DOT's) budget. Advocates have also criticized DOT for celebrating and touting its successes (and using taxpayer money for that purpose) when close to two million Americans have died on highways under the agency's watch.
Many safety advocates are urging federal regulators to pass a tough new series of rules as part of a broad Vision Zero plan aimed at preventing truck accident fatalities and other accident deaths. Cities have begun to embrace the Vision Zero ideal and aim to achieve a zero death rate for car accidents. However, it remains to be seen whether any federal authorities will actually consider adopting a series of stricter regulations aimed at making roads safer for motorists.