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Common factors in commercial truck accidents

The past 10 years have seen an estimated 20 percent increase in commercial truck accidents in West Virginia and the rest of the U.S. This is an alarming figure, considering how there are more than 15 million commercial trucks on America's roads. The recent Large Truck Crash Causation Study has shown that the majority of accidents are caused by truck driver negligence.

The study was the result of collaboration between the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Researchers examined data from 120,000 crashes taken from a span of 33 months. They found that almost 75 percent of these crashes involved one other vehicle.

Sleep apnea testing regulations challenged in court

Crashes involving 18-wheelers and semi trucks can be the cause of severe personal injuries, major property damage and even death. In some cases, such accidents in West Virginia are caused by truck driver fatigue. Sleep apnea poses a particular risk when truckers are undiagnosed as the condition can make it difficult to have a restful night's sleep.

Because of the danger posed by truck accidents, the government has sought regulations to require commercial drivers to be tested for sleep apnea. However, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is pursuing a lawsuit against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration over regulations pertaining to sleep apnea testing during required physical exams for truck drivers. OOIDA's case argues that the rules violate a 2013 law requiring the federal agency to complete a full rulemaking process with public comment before issuing new sleep apnea testing regulations.

NGA seeks to improve roadway safety

Drivers in West Virginia may be wondering just what can be done to improve road safety conditions. After all, traffic fatalities are now on the rise again after several years of decline. In 2016, there was a nationwide total of 37,461 traffic fatalities, which was 5.6 percent more than the previous year. The increase was felt by 39 states in 2016.

With this situation in mind, the National Governors Association has published a report filled with strategies for reducing highway and traffic fatalities across the U.S. Aimed primarily at state governors, the "road map" provides a kind of policy development tool that can be adapted to the needs of each state.

OOIDA requests longer work break

Commercial truckers in West Virginia and the rest of the nation may soon be able to have 3 off-duty hours during their 14-hour on-duty work period. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has submitted a petition to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requesting that the 30-minute rest period currently required by regulations be reversed and that drivers be given up to 3 consecutive hours of break time during their 14-hour work day.

According to the OOIDA, the work hours regulations that are currently in place are unnecessarily complicated and offer no flexibility. The association also states that the regulations do not take into account the physical limitation or capabilities of individual drivers and could compel drivers to work when they are fatigued and in unfavorable driving and weather conditions.

Exhausted truckers are a threat to every motorist

In West Virginia, large trucks and semi-trailers play a significant role in the economy and the transportation of products. The men and women who drive these vehicles have important jobs, but they are often behind the wheel for long periods at a time. When a truck driver is exhausted behind the wheel, he or she is likely too tired to drive safely.

Drowsy driving greatly increases the chances of a car accident, much like drunk driving or distracted driving. There are certain regulations in place intended to reduce the number of consecutive hours that a trucker can drive, but sometimes, truckers still drive while dangerously sleepy. When tired drivers cause harm to innocent motorists, it may be appropriate to take action through a civil claim.

Automobile warning systems can help prevent crashes

Drivers in West Virginia and across the United States may be avoiding collisions and staying safer on the roadways due to automotive warning technologies. A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that systems like lane departure warnings or blind spot alerts can play a major role in cutting down the number of car crashes, particularly those that cause injuries. The IIHS study looked at over 5,000 car accidents in 2015 of the type that these systems are intended to prevent.

The study also examined what happened in the case of vehicles that were equipped with the warning systems. The researchers found that sideswipe, head-on and single-vehicle traffic accidents were down by 11 percent when vehicles had the warning systems. Even more importantly for roadway safety, the risk of injury crashes was cut by 21 percent when the warning systems were present. The IIHS estimated that if all vehicles had these technologies in 2015, over 55,000 unnecessary traffic injuries could have been avoided.

Distracted driving and how to prevent it

Experts believe that distracted driving may be a cause in the rise in traffic fatalities across West Virginia and the rest of the nation. Smartphones have proven to be one of the most frequent sources of distraction, with 52 percent of users stating in a Consumer Reports survey that they have texted, sent emails, browsed the Internet, and watched videos while behind the wheel.

Consumer Reports has strongly advised drivers not to text and drive, and it is illegal in many states. Some smartphone manufacturers have, for their part, introduced safety features to keep drivers from being distracted. For example, Apple systems come with a mode that blocks all alerts to incoming calls and texts. Androids and iPhones can be set so that they send automatic replies.

Drugged driving is a growing concern

While drunk driving receives a lot of media attention for the risks it poses, West Virginia motorists have reason to be concerned about another form of driving under the influence - drugged driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is working to draw attention to this type of reckless behavior.

There has been an increase in auto accidents attributable to driving while under the influence of drugs. Some have associated this with two widely disparate trends: cannabis decriminalization and the national opioid public health crisis. The NHTSA has announced that it is committed to enhancing scientific and data-oriented work around drugged driving, and it will be hosting a national summit in March 2018 to advance an action plan on the issue.

Bill sponsored by senators aims to reduce fatal truck crashes

A collision between a car and a tractor-trailer can be devastating in any circumstance. Many of the worst injuries come when a car slides under a tractor-trailer. While modern automobiles have many safety features, underride crashes can render many of these features completely worthless.

According to federal statistics on truck accidents, underride crashes are responsible for over 200 deaths per year. To combat this, a bipartisan group of Congress members has authored a bill to require additional guard rails on the sides and front of all tractor-trailers. These guards are designed to prevent cars from sliding underneath a trailer during a collision.

Overloaded trucks create unsafe conditions on the road

It is well known that overloaded trucks are unsafe to drive. Statistics show that overloaded cargo is a leading cause of trucking accidents, and, year after year, motorists in West Virginia and other states are placed at risk of serious injury or death by truckers whose payloads are unbalanced or overweight. In addition to other safety concerns, overloaded trucks are difficult to handle and have a reduced emergency handling capability, which could ultimately result in a crash.

Less experienced drivers may not always judge a truck's stopping distance realistically under the best of circumstances. When a semi is carrying too much weight, it could gain speed when descending an incline more quickly than they expect, and they might realize too late that more force to the brake is required to avoid a collision.

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