Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration spokesman Duane DeBruyne says that while FMCSA has “no immediate comment” on the report disseminated Tuesday by ATA citing studies showing car/truck crashes to be more the fault of the car driver, the agency is working on a fair crash weighting system.
“The agency continues working with many partners, including the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC), on a Crash Weighting Research Plan that outlines the research goals and approach to support an equitable mechanism for crash weighting,” DeBruyne said.
“To better assess a carrier’s role in crashes,” he said, “FMCSA’s Research Plan has three objectives:
“1) To determine whether Police Accident Reports (PARs) from across the nation provide sufficient, consistent and reliable information to support crash weighting determinations
“2) To assess whether a carrier’s role in a crash is a stronger predictor of future crash risk than crash involvement alone, and, if so, how crash weighting should be implemented in the Safety Management System (SMS) and,
“3) To evaluate how the agency could use additional data in the determination process to allow for public input.”
DeBruyne said the research efforts are expected to be completed by this summer. “Following development of a proposal,” he said, “the agency will seek public input to ensure that any crash weighting methodology improves safety.”
ATA Tuesday had cited a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study in which car drivers were assigned factors in 81 percent of crashes compared with 27 percent of truckers. Those totals were greater than 100 percent, the study noted, because 10 percent of crashes assigned blame to both car and truck drivers. This report assigned driver factors to 8,309 car-truck crashes as a proxy for fault.
Also in the UMTRI study: Cars were the encroaching vehicle in 89 percent of head-on crashes; in 88 percent of opposite-direction sideswipes; in 80 percent of rear-end crashes and in 72 percent of same-direction side-swipes, which it said were “obvious indicators of fault.”
In a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, cars were assigned driver factors in 91 percent of head-on crashes; 91 percent of opposite-direction sideswipes, 71 percent of rear-end crashes and 77 percent of same-direction sideswipes. Trucks, however, were the encroaching vehicle in 98 percent of backing accidents, although this represented less than 1 percent of the sample set. This 2003 study assigned causal driver factors in 10,092 fatalities.
Thirty-six percent of car drivers were cited for two or more unsafe acts in an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study while only 11 percent of truck drivers were cited for two or more unsafe acts. This study examined 10,732 fatal accidents
Two studies from FMCSA were cited by ATA. In the first, 85 percent of cars and 26 percent of trucks were assigned driver factors in 2007; 85 percent of cars versus 25 percent of trucks were assigned driver factors in 2008 and in 2009, 81 percent of cars versus 22 percent of trucks were assigned driver factors in crashes. The figures are from annual large truck and bus crash data assigning driver factors in 6,131 car-truck fatalities.
The second study was taken from a smaller data set of 221 fatal accidents (large truck crash causation study) which found 77 percent of cars were assigned driver factors while 23 percent of trucks were assigned driver factors.
ATA used the figures to drive home its point that it’s important for the federal Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program to fairly address crash accountability.
“Every crash and every fatality and injury suffered on our nation’s highways is a tragedy,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “But it is also tragic that carriers and drivers across this country are saddled with guilt and blame for many crashes they could do nothing to prevent.”
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