In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put forth a Notice of Proposed Rule Making. NHTSA announced it wants to change the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to impose stricter rules for rear underride guards. NHTSA's proposal came after more than a decade of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recommending a tougher rule to help prevent deadly truck accidents. Underride accidents happen when cars slide under the back or the side of a tractor trailer. Serious injuries and fatalities are common in these crashes.
While it is good news that NHTSA may soon be imposing stricter underride standards, this action has come too late to save many lives. It is one more example of how safety regulators often take far too long to act, increasing the risk of truck crashes and other types of accidents on the road. Consumer Affairs recently reported on how safety organizations, including an organization called AnnaLeaha and Mary for Truck Safety, believe regulators are falling short.
Federal Lawmakers Should Impose Stricter Safety Regulations to Prevent Truck Crashes & Other Collisions
AnnaLeaha and Mary for Truck Safety is named after two sisters who were killed in an accident with a semi-trailer. The parents of the girls believe an absence of sufficient federal regulations were a direct contributing factor to their children's death. The girls died in an underride accident with a truck driver who was believed to have been on the road too long. If stricter underride standards had been in place at the time of the incident, the deadly accident may never have happened.
This safety organization is not the only one that believes federal regulators need to do better. Critics have commented the Department of Transportation (DOT) is using taxpayer funds to celebrate progress it has made and to "congratulate itself for its safety efforts," despite the fact more than two million Americans have been killed since DOT took over responsibility for ensuring highway safety. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is part of DOT and which has broad authority for regulating trucks and other vehicles, receives only two percent of the DOT's annual budget.
Safety advocates have urged federal agencies to implement a broad array of safety laws aimed at a Vision Zero plan to try to reduce motor vehicle accident deaths to zero. Such a plan would necessarily involve many new regulations on trucks, since truck drivers drive much more than other drivers and since truck accidents are disproportionately likely to be deadly.
Now would be the prime time for regulators to begin doing more, because the roads are actually becoming more dangerous. There were 26,000 people who died in car accidents in the first nine months of 2015, compared with 23,796 over the first nine months of 2014. This is almost a 10 percent rise in fatality rates, after a long decline in deaths. The rise is attributed to driver behavior, but both driver behavior and safety equipment could be addressed with new regulations as part of a vision zero plan.