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Will new NHTSA rule reduce tractor-trailer and bus rollover accidents?

A rule requiring large buses and tractor-trailers to install electronic stability control technology is expected to prevent thousands of rollovers per year.

Rollover crashes cause about 10,000 deaths across the U.S. each year, or over one-third of traffic fatalities, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. As many people in Nashville know, technology to prevent these deadly accidents has been a standard feature in passenger vehicles for several years. Until recently, however, electronic stability control was optional in large buses and truck tractors.

Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration implemented a new rule mandating the use of this technology in these vehicles. According to The Detroit Free Press, experts expect this change to prevent thousands of bus and tractor-trailer rollover accidents, along with hundreds of injuries, on a yearly basis.

Projected accident reduction

Research indicates that ESC technology, which detects traction loss and brakes individual wheels to restore driver control, can significantly reduce certain rollover accidents. The technology can prevent up to 56 percent of untripped rollover accidents, or rollovers in which vehicles do not hit objects or depart the road. ESC is also 14 percent effective in preventing crashes that involve loss of traction due to over-steering or under-steering.

More widespread use of this technology may save hundreds of lives in the long run. According to The Detroit Free Press, over the course of just three years, ESC technology in passenger vehicles saved 2,200 lives. The NHTSA projects that, on an annual basis, the use of ESC in qualifying buses and tractor-trailers will prevent 1,759 accidents. This reduction in accidents is expected to save 49 lives per year and spare 649 people from injuries over the same time period.

Gradual rule implementation

Unfortunately, motorists may not enjoy the full safety benefits of this rule immediately, since the rule will not be fully effective until 2019. The rule will be implemented in the following stages:

  • All new three-axle truck tractors built after August 2017 must be equipped with ESC technology.
  • Other truck tractors will have until 2019 to comply with the rule.
  • For large buses that weigh more than 33,000 pounds, the rule will take effect in 2018.
  • Large buses that weigh between 26,000 and 33,000 pounds will have until 2019 to start using ESC technology.

Once the rule is fully effective, the safety benefits may be significant. Reports from the NHTSA indicate that, without the rule, only 80 percent of buses and one-third of truck tractors would be utilizing ESC technology by 2018.

Here in Nashville, data on annual rollover crashes is limited, so it is difficult to gauge how much of an impact this rule might have. However, data from the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security shows that large truck crashes take a huge toll near Nashville. In 2013 alone, Davidson County recorded 1,241 of these accidents. The reduction of one of the most dangerous types of truck crashes could offer significant benefits for local residents.

Legally addressing rollover crashes

Sadly, the use of ESC technology will not prevent every accident, especially when factors such as driver negligence or equipment flaws come into play. However, when these accidents occur, injury victims or their surviving family members may be entitled to legal remedies. To learn more about the available recourse, rollover accident victims should discuss the situation with an attorney.

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