EDITORIAL: Tech can keep trucks from smashing into things — use it

SHARE EDITORIAL: Tech can keep trucks from smashing into things — use it

This semitruck crashed into an apartment building early Tuesday in south suburban Lansing. | Lansing police

When a semitruck smashes straight into a suburban apartment building, it’s time to get more serious about making big trucks safer.

Early on Tuesday, a semi crashed into a Lansing apartment complex. Police did not cite a cause for the crash, but it is part of a disturbing trend around the nation of more accidents — often deadly ones — involving big trucks.


The number of truck-related highway fatalities alone increased by 28 percent from 2009 to 2016, according to federal government statistics, and there were many more accidents that caused injuries. Early data from 2017 indicates the number of crashes is spiking up even more, according to the Virginia-based Truck Safety Coalition.

Let’s put those numbers into reverse.

For years, the National Transportation Safety Board has called for installing collision avoidance technology and damage-mitigation systems on semis. One example of such technology: It could apply the brakes when a truck is about to hit something because the driver is not paying attention. A second example: It could set off an alarm when a truck drifts out of its lane.

This is nothing new or radical. The European Union requires crash-avoidance systems on big trucks. Truck companies that have installed the safety technology on their own say it prevents most collisions. Auto companies already are adding similar systems to some cars.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is supposed to work to keep our highways safe, but it has not acted. Perhaps the $11 million that the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics says the trucking industry spent on lobbying last year has had something to do with that.

Data show that distracted driving, driver impairment and speeding — along with increasingly higher speed limits around the country — are the leading causes of truck crashes.

In one particularly glaring example, four people in a car stuck in traffic were killed last year when the car was rear-ended by a fast-moving truck near the Illinois-Indiana border. A dash cam video showed the truck driver looking at a computer tablet in his hand.

If a truck is not properly and fully equipped for safety, nobody on our nation’s highways is safe.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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