Ohio Experiences more Truck Crashes in 2015

Highway safety has not been a high-profile topic in recent years, but increasing fatalities from truck crashes may force the issue and lead to a push for safety improvements on large trucks

Many people in Ohio spend a lot of time in their vehicles. Driving to work or school, then to friends, the store or a doctor, it all adds up. As the economy has slowly improved, so have the number of vehicle miles driven. As more time is spent behind the wheel, people are more exposed to the potential negligence of other drivers.

Unfortunately, statistics demonstrate that not all of that negligence is potential. Highway fatalities have increased across the nation and in Ohio. A significant number of the miles driven in Ohio involve trucks. Factors generating those miles include major companies with logistics in Ohio, as well as Ohio's central location in the eastern half of the country, and the half-dozen or so major Interstate highways that cross the state carrying much of that truck traffic.

Truck crashes increase

The number of fatal crashes involving trucks has increased in Ohio, despite a decline nationwide in the most recent year that statistics are available. There were 22,490 vehicle crashes in 2015, which was a 13 percent increase from 2012. Fatal truck crashes increased in Ohio from 162 to 181. Nationally, there were 3,649 truck crashes in 2014, which was a slight decrease from 2012's 3,726.

Enforcement matters

The Ohio State Highway Patrol has a group devoted to inspecting commercial trucks in an effort to take unsafe drivers and their trucks off the road. If a driver is found to have serious safety violations on their vehicle or on their driving record, they can be taken out-of-service. Fortunately for most motorists, the majority of trucks "run legal," with the drivers staying within their driving time limits and operating trucks that are properly maintained.

Nonetheless, there are those who attempt to save money and delivery time by skirting the rules, cutting corners on safety by driving beyond their time limits and in trucks with marginal tires or brakes. While the OSHP can catch some of these drivers, many escape detection and being placed out-of-service.

The risk for other motorists is they will encounter one of these trucks. A fatigued driver, over his limit for driving hours, may not notice that traffic is slowing for construction, congestion or a previous crash, or that road conditions have deteriorated due to weather and will slam into those stopped or slow moving vehicles.

A truck may have negligently maintained brakes or some other questionable equipment, and will lack the ability stop in the time and distance necessary to bring an 80,000-pound truck safely to rest from highway speeds.

Catastrophic consequences

When a crash like this occurs, the motorists in the passenger vehicle often suffer severe injuries and many times the crash results in fatalities. An out-of-control 40-ton truck can do tremendous damage to other vehicles, even large SUVs and pickup trucks.

Families may have to contend with trucking companies and their insurance companies wanting to quickly settle the potential lawsuit, sometimes before the family has fully comprehended the situation and is still in grief. Truck companies frequently have quick response teams of investigators and attorneys, which necessitates that anyone who has suffered such a crash needs to obtain their own legal counsel to prevent their being pressured into an inadequate settlement while they are still mourning and in shock.

Technology may help

The use of electronic logbooks to track driver hours and the presence of data recorders in trucks similar to the "black boxes" in aircraft, as well as the implementation of collision avoidance systems that can help trucks stay in their lanes and apply the brakes in emergencies.

Some of these systems are in place today, while others are soon to be adopted. Ultimately, the safety of large trucks could be significantly improved by the use of self-driving or autonomous systems.

These devices could remove the fallible human driver from the equation, eliminating the risk of fatigued, drunk, drugged or poorly-trained drivers making fatal mistakes that cost other motorists their lives. Implementation of such systems can be slow, and everyone who drives in Ohio is at risk from these negligent truck drivers.