The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that trucking companies should work harder to ensure that their drivers get rest. The Board also says the government should move toward mandating the use of alarm systems to alert exhausted truckers. While drivers are ultimately responsible for getting enough rest, the Board believes trucking companies and the government should also make the nation’s roads safer by studying fledgling technology that would keep drivers alert. A Board hearing, held in Washington, D.C., and streamed live on the Internet, was held in response to an early-morning crash in western Wisconsin three years ago in which a bus carrying a high school band slammed into an overturned semitrailer, killing five people. NTSB investigators concluded that the truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and began to drift off the interstate’s shoulder. When he swerved back onto the road, the rig overturned. The bus then plowed into the truck.
NTSB investigator Jana Price told the board some technology still in the early stages may eventually prevent such fatigue-induced crashes. For example, a dashboard-mounted camera that tracks a driver’s eye and eyelid movements could alert a driver who appears to be falling asleep. The Board was told that the technology can be useful since drivers are often unaware of their own fatigue. Tiredness is a factor in about one in eight large-truck crashes, according to the Board.
Investigators also debated the use of technology designed to warn of impending collisions and automatically engage the brakes. They discussed concerns that automatic braking could interfere with the stability of large trucks. The board recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study the technology and mandate its use if it proves effective. Technology was also discussed at the hearing that detects when a vehicle is veering from its lane and alerts the driver with a light or an alarm. Some drivers complain that the alerts can be distracting. Low-tech measures can be effective such as rumble strips. These are textured strips of pavement that produce vibrations when a driver passes over them. Studies show they reduce drift-off crashes by up to 60%. Hopefully, all of the safety recommendations will be put into effect by NHTSA.
Source: Associated Press
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