Opinion: Make Mandating Speed Limiters a Top Priority
By Rob Abbott
Vice President of Safety Policy
American Trucking Associations
This Opinion piece appears in the April 9 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
Each year, the Department of Transportation undertakes a number of new initiatives to further reduce or eliminate highway crashes. One measure DOT has announced it will undertake this year will have a marked effect on highway safety: mandating that speed limiters on large trucks be set at a reasonable top speed.
A quick review of available safety data confirms that the single greatest contributor to highway crashes is vehicle speed. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2009, for instance, driving too fast for conditions or in excess of posted speed limits by the truck driver were factors in 13.9% of single-vehicle crashes and 5.9% of multiple-vehicle crashes that resulted in a fatality — more than any other factor.
Also, according to the University of Michigan’s Trucks Involved in Fatal Accidents data, speeding on the part of the truck driver was the most prevalent driver-related factor cited in fatal accidents involving a large truck.
In addition, the FMCSA Large Truck Crash Causation Study found that “traveling too fast for conditions” was cited as the critical pre-crash event in 18% (weighted estimate) of crashes where the truck was assigned the critical reason for the crash. This was the single most frequently cited factor in crashes where trucks were assigned a critical reason for the event.
Naturally, speed limiters won’t prevent all of these crashes — especially those involving drivers exceeding lower speed limits (e.g., 45 mph) or those involving drivers operating below the posted limit, but too fast for current conditions.
However, there is no question that the limiters will help to eliminate a great many crashes that occur at higher speeds. Preventing these crashes should be a priority because high-speed crashes tend to be more severe.
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