California motorists who share the road with large trucks and buses have reason to be apprehensive about getting too close to these large vehicles. Large vehicles are especially likely to get into rollover accidents, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed a new safety standard to deal with that concern.
Manufacturers of large buses and commercial trucks would have to install electronic stability control systems. These ESC systems, the NHTSA claims, could prevent up to 56 percent of rollover accidents every year.
Prevalence of rollovers
Rollover crashes, according to the NHTSA, are the single deadliest type of large commercial vehicle accident.
One major study, conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, looked into a representative sample of large-truck crashes involving injury or death from 2001 to 2003. Nine percent of the crashes in the study were rollovers, suggesting that during the period of the study, 13,000 rollovers led to fatalities or injuries in the United States.
Causes for rollovers
The FMCSA study found that a major factor in these accidents is the nature of the vehicle and its load. Because these vehicles have high centers of gravity, they are more likely than automobiles to tip over on curves – especially on- and off-ramps. Whether in a hurry or misjudging the safe level of speed, drivers may take these curves too fast. They may also fail to take into account heavy loads when making these maneuvers, forgetting that they need more time to slow down when their truck is carrying more weight than usual.
Driver inattention, sometimes caused by lack of sleep, is a second factor faulted for a significant number of rollovers.
Another major contributor to rollovers is control error. Even without excessive speed, over-turning can start a rollover, while under-turning can cause a driver to run off the road.
How ESC can help
According to the NHTSA, ESC systems have been shown to be effective in reducing rollover incidents in pickup trucks and automobiles.
ESC systems contain sensors that detect and monitor the vehicle’s movement. The system can sense the need to adjust braking, and apply brakes automatically. This process mitigates a large vehicle driver’s failure to estimate how much to slow down for curves.
The ESC sensors also alert a driver to understeering or oversteering errors that cause loss of control, in time to make lifesaving corrections.
Requiring ESC for large buses and trucks, the NHTSA estimates, could prevent as many as 2,329 crashes and 49 to 60 deaths annually on highways in California and the rest of the nation. About 649 to 858 injuries would be prevented as well.
Help for the injured
For those who have been harmed by rollover crashes, it is wise to consult a seasoned California personal injury attorney. If someone was negligent, it may be possible to recover damages to cover medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering. For families of persons killed in such accidents, wrongful death compensation may be available.