The Forgotten Danger for Holiday Travelers? Heavy Trucks.
Each year, approximately 100 million Americans travel more than 50 miles from home to celebrate the holidays. And while some travelers opt for the crowded airports and weather delays, most Americans this holiday season will load up the family and drive to their respective celebrations. Unfortunately, holiday travel can be fraught with hazards most of which travelers are familiar with. Weather conditions can make for perilous road conditions, holiday celebrations can lead to drunk drivers and the overall stress of the holidays can lead to aggressive and unruly motorists. However, one hazard often overlooked is the dangers of heavy trucks sharing the roadway.
Heavy trucks – often referred to as semis or big rigs – are dangerous year round; but, the crowded holiday roads can magnify their devastating impacts. While, overall motor vehicle fatalities decreased in 2017, fatalities in crashes involving heavy trucks increased by 9%. In 2017 alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determined that over 4,500 Americans were killed in crashes involving heavy trucks. Yet, despite the devastating statistics, federal regulators and the trucking industry refuse to take action. As a result, dangerous heavy trucks, unequipped with modern safety technologies, crowd our roadways and endanger the lives of millions. The obsolete safety technology and lack of innovation in the trucking industry results in thousands of preventable injuries and deaths every year.
During the holiday season, heavy truck drivers deal with crowded roadways, dangerous weather conditions, and heavier work loads. As a result, truck driver errors are magnified and increase in frequency. Nonetheless, modern safety innovations, commonly referred to as collision avoidance technologies, could—if they were equipped—mitigate these mistakes and make holiday travel safer.
Modern collision avoidance features include: forward collision warnings, lane departure warnings, and adaptive cruise control. Despite these technologies becoming commonplace on passenger cars, they are rarely featured in heavy trucks. Similar systems are required on European heavy trucks yet trucks manufactured by the same companies in the United States are put on the road without these crucial safety features. “[T]he National Transportation Safety Board has recommended 10 times since the 1990s that NHTSA require forward crash avoidance and mitigation systems on all heavy trucks.” Yet, inaction persists. The industry’s failure to equip all heavy trucks with these already existing technologies results in needless injury and death every year.
As you and your loved ones embark on your travels this holiday season, keep in mind the dangers posed by the heavy trucks sharing the road. Given their numerous safety concerns, the best practice is to give heavy trucks plenty of space and avoid them if at all possible.
The heavy truck attorneys at McCartney Stucky wishes you and your loved ones safe travels and a joyous holiday season.
 The Kansas City Star recently reported that in 2017 “[l]obbying efforts on behalf of the trucking industry totaled $11 million.” See, Kansas City Editorial Board, Thousands are dying in semi truck crashes. Why won’t the government make a simple fix?, The Kansas City Star, Sep. 10, 2018, available at, http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/editorials/article21854550.html
 For a complete list of potential defects see our Defective Heavy Trucks page.