How Technology and Regulations Can Reduce Fatal Traffic Accidents

How Technology and Regulations Can Reduce Fatal Traffic Accidents There are many different ways to try to make cars and trucks safer. New technology is constantly being developed to help drivers anticipate and respond to traffic emergencies. Regulations help ensure that cars have the equipment they need and that manufacturers ensure that their products are free from defects that cause terrible accidents. Litigation also makes a big difference. Insurance settlements and verdicts help convince drivers and car manufacturers that they need to prioritize the safety of drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bicycle riders.

Two recent stories highlight how technology and regulations are making a difference.

Adaptive driving beams will soon be legal in the United States

According to a November 16, 2021, story in Yahoo, adaptive driving beams which are legal in Europe will soon be legal in America. The recently passed hard-infrastructure bill makes adaptive beams legal. These beams help drivers who drive in the nighttime.

Adaptive beams essentially let cars that are equipped with these beams adjust their illumination based on the surrounding traffic conditions. The adaptive beam technology uses cameras and sensors to locate other vehicles on the road. The beams can “trace a perfect darkened opening for the other cars, while still throwing out high beam-like light everywhere else.” The beams will help to darken the illumination of road signs when drivers near the signs – so that driver can read the sign without shining a bright reflection in the eyes of other drivers.

Adaptive driving beams may also be able to “project warning signs onto pavement” and highlight any pedestrians (or bicycle riders) on the highway.

While adaptive beam technology is in use in Europe, a federal regulation, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 108, made these nighttime lights illegal in the United States. The regulation prevented manufacturers from using the technology by providing that car compliance required that headlights have a “dedicated low beam” and a “dedicated high beam.” The recently passed infrastructure bill changes that requirement. The new law specifically authorizes the use of “adaptive beam headlamp systems.”

The change in the law requires that FMVSS be amended to include the adaptive high beams provision. The law essentially makes the legality of adaptive driving beams effective in two years.

The new infrastructure bill states that headlight performance testing will now be required. The Yahoo report estimates that the testing will be similar to the types of tests done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

FMCSA requires yearly inspection of rear impact guards

Freightwaves reported on November 8, 2021, that as of December 9, 2021, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will require that the yearly inspections of commercial motor vehicles will now need to include an inspection of the vehicle’s rear impact guards. Commercial motor vehicles generally include large trucks such as semis and tractor-trailers.

Both the US Government Accountability Office and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance sought the change. The rear impact guards help prevent cars from sliding under the commercial vehicle in the event of an accident. Small cars can slide under these large trucks, usually killing the occupants of the car on impact.

According to the FCMSA, commercial trucks have had a duty to have rear impact guards for 65 years. The new rules formally require that the annual CMV inspection actively examine whether the CMV has a rear impact guard and the quality and condition of that guard.

The FMCSA stated that it does not anticipate that the rule will have that much of an impact on the trucking industry, even for smaller carriers and owner-operator CMVs, because carriers have generally already been voluntarily conducting a rear impact guard inspection.

While the rear guard impact rule is generally being met with approval, both small and large trucking companies worry that the rule may lead to more “pervasive regulations on truck underride guard requirements.” The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) stated that while there is research and experience to justify rear impact guards, the same cannot be said of front underride guards and side underride guards.

The OOIDA stated:

Over the last several years, [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] has considered numerous options involving side underride guards but has consistently concluded federal mandates would be impractical and costly, thus outweighing any perceived safety benefits. Any proposal to mandate side underrides disregards this reality and ignores the safety, economic and operational concerns that have been raised by industry stakeholders.

The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) agrees with the OOIDA’s viewpoint. The TCA claims that any new side underride guard requirements “would present the largest unfunded mandate ever imposed on the trucking industry.”

The TCA claims that the trucking industry should not be required to use and pay for side underride guards because the guards have not yet been shown to reduce the severity of traffic accidents. The TCA thinks that any money for technology would be better used by spending the money on automatic emergency braking, forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning, and other technologies that are currently available and have been “proven to prevent an accident from happening in the first place.”

The bipartisan infrastructure bill does more than require underride guard inspections. The law requires that the US Transportation Secretary conduct additional research on how well side underride guards work. The new law also requires that an advisory committee provide other recommendations to help reduce underride crashes and deaths caused by underride accidents.

At Bailey & Greer, PLLC, our Memphis accident lawyers fight aggressively to hold drivers, vehicle owners, car and truck parts manufacturers liable for the fatalities and injuries they cause. A failure to be able to see at night is dangerous. Cars that slide under trucks usually cause horrific accidents. Our attorneys are strong advocates for anyone killed or hurt in a car or truck accident. To talk with an experienced car and truck accident lawyer in Memphis or Jackson, call us at 901-475-7434 or fill out our contact form to make an appointment. We handle car and truck accident cases on a contingency fee basis.