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Do truck safety features pose distractions for drivers?

Drivers of large commercial trucks spend long hours on the road and a variety of issues can cause truck-related crashes.

Fleet managers seek to reduce preventable accidents such as crashes caused by distracted driving. But do recommended safety features add to the list of distractions?

Causes of crashes

Trucking company owners and safety managers strive to find ways to reduce preventable accidents, meaning those that should never happen. However, these kinds of crashes occur for various reasons including new drivers with little experience, long hours behind the wheel and in-vehicle distractions from the use of cellphones and tablets.

New technology issues

A 2017 study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute estimated that the installation of automatic emergency braking systems on all large trucks could prevent 5,294 crashes annually. However, a 2016 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that, on average, truck drivers do not change the way they drive just because their vehicles have collision-avoidance systems. Their companies might equip trucks with safety features such as:

  • collision avoidance systems
  • rear-view camera and dash-camera systems
  • collision warning systems
  • roll-over stability controls
  • radar-sensing cruise control
  • active braking systems
  • blind-spot monitoring
  • lane keep assist
  • forward collision warning
  • rear parking sensors

However, some drivers find new, in-vehicle technology distracting.

Truck-car crashes

While it seems obvious that big rigs equipped with state-of-the-art safety features have an advantage over vehicles without such technology, accidents still happen. In a collision with a large truck, the occupants of a passenger vehicle stand to suffer the most serious injuries. Along with trucking companies and highway safety organizations, advocates of the injured victims will investigate the cause of the crash and determine whether distraction played a role in the accident.