The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced a goal of zero highway fatalities in 30 years. That is a lofty goal, given the fact that in the first half of this year more than 17,000 individuals died in motor vehicle crashes and that is a 10 percent increase from the same period in 2015. This is bad news considering that in 2014 we had reached a record low with highway fatalities.
There are many factors behind this, including miles driven, a better economy and more distracted driving. There is also the issue of large trucks. As the economy improves, it means more trucks on the road delivering the goods that economy produces. And more trucks will likely mean more deadly truck crashes.
From 2014, the most recent year for statistics, 3,900 people died in large-truck crashes. This was about 12 percent of all highway fatalities. If that rate stays the same for this year, there could be as many as 4,500 deaths.
Truck crashes are of particular concern for all other drivers on the roads because of the size and destructive force contained in an 80,000-pound truck traveling at interstate highway speeds. When a large truck crashes into a passenger vehicle, the occupants in that vehicle usually suffer the most severe injuries or death.
In the Nashville area, we have multiple major interstates, I-40 which is a primary east-west route, I-65, a major north-south connection and I-24, which carries much traffic to Atlanta and Florida. These roads bring a large volume of truck traffic through the Nashville area, and as this traffic increases, every driver could potentially be a victim of a negligent truck driver.
There is technology that may help with the goal of zero deaths. Before we arrive at self-driving trucks, tools like automatic braking and collision alert systems can help prevent many of the crashes that are due to drowsy, drugged, intoxicated or distracted truck drivers.