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Study: front-crash prevention works for big rigs, too
Timothy Shay

Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor its IIHS acronym roll off of the tongues of most of us in the Springfield and Decatur area. The group’s smattering of name recognition is due to its safety ratings of new vehicles.

However, the nonprofit IIHS recently issued a press release in hopes of increasing its brand awareness.

An IIHS senior research engineer recreated one of the group’s famous vehicle crash tests in a stop-action Legos animation video. It took Becky Mueller two months, a thousand Legos pieces and 1,500 photos to make her charming test recreation.

Real tests, real vehicles

Of course, the main focus at IIHS are real crash tests with real cars, and research into collision causes and accident prevention.

The IIHS recently released a study of large commercial truck crashes in which the big rigs slam into the backs of other vehicles. According to the organization’s research, more than 40 percent of those rear-end collisions could be prevented by equipping the large trucks with safety technologies already widely available on new passenger vehicles: automatic emergency braking (AEB) and forward-collision warning systems.

Big crash reductions

The IIHS recently evaluated data collected from 2017-19 from 62 trucking fleets operating tractor-trailers and other commercial trucks weighing at least 33,000 pounds. The research found that big rigs equipped with front-crash warning tech reduced rear-end collisions by 44 percent, while large trucks outfitted with AEB had 41 percent rear-end crash reductions.

“This study provides evidence that forward collision warning and AEB greatly reduce crash risk for tractor-trailers and other large trucks,” IIHS Director of Statistical Services Eric Teoh said.

The importance of crash-reduction

Why is tractor-trailer crash reduction so important? These grim statistics provide the answer:

  • According to the National Safety Council, large trucks account for only 4 percent of all registered vehicles on U.S. roadways. At the same time, big rigs are 9 percent of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes.
  • Two years ago, 4,862 large trucks were involved in fatal wrecks – a 51 percent increase since 2009. More than 4,100 people died in those crashes, including 119 who were killed in rear-end truck accidents.

Not all crashes can be prevented

Front-collision prevention technologies are collections of sensors, cameras and processors that monitor and analyze the traffic and road ahead. Some systems include forward-crash driver alerts only, while AEB systems apply the vehicle’s brakes in order to avoid crashes.

Not all wrecks can be avoided, of course, but even in unavoidable crashes the safety tech reduces the speed of the approaching vehicle, thereby reducing the likelihood of injuries and fatalities.

Previous IIHS research found that on passenger vehicles, AEB slices rear-end crashes involving injuries by 56 percent.

Some commercial truck operators are adding these life-saving technologies to their fleets. Let’s hope more will come to recognize that truck accident reduction is in everyone’s interest.