New Developments in Safety Technology and Car Accidents


In the past several years, car accidents have been on the rise.  In fact, according to the most current data, deadly car accidents have increased by 16% throughout the United States.  Automakers and safety regulators at The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) are keen to use new technology to try and help reverse that trend with the implementation self-driving tractor-trailers and automatic emergency braking systems.  But others are concerned about the safety of the technology and its overall effectiveness.

Let’s start with driverless big rigs.  Under existing law, driverless vehicles, including trucks, can operate anywhere unless there is a state law prohibiting it.  Twenty-four states expressly allow driverless vehicles, the laws in 16 states are silent on the issue and 10 states have enacted laws limiting the use of driverless vehicles.  Tennessee is one of the states that permits driverless vehicles with certain conditions.

The most recent federal data shows that nearly 5,800 people died in fatal tractor-trailer crashes last year.  With a driverless truck, companies do not have to be concerned about speeding or their driver being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  There are no concerns about distracted driving such as texting and driving.   It is not necessary for the truck to stop operation to allow the driver to rest and remain in compliance with service hours intended to prevent drowsy driving.  Nonetheless, the driverless technology has experienced some high-profile fails.  For example, the driverless taxi that struck a pedestrian and dragged her for nearly 20 feet.

In addition, we have all experienced situations where our phones, routers or computers needed to be rebooted because of a problem with operation, and they were not traveling 70 mph when the operational error occurred.  Many critics also point out that trains have their own rail system yet a human conductor is still onboard, so the same should be required for driverless tractor-trailers given their size, potential for great harm and the fact that they share the roadways with pedestrians, cars, bicycles, motorcycles, school buses, etc.

The second type of technology set to be deployed is less controversial.  The NHTSA has announced that all new passenger cars and trucks must be equipped with automatic emergency braking systems that can bring the vehicle to a full stop without crashing or hitting a pedestrian even at high speeds.  For pedestrians, the threshold is 45 mph and the threshold for vehicles is 62 mph.   Notably, The Institute for Highway Safety recently tested the crash avoidance systems on 10 small SUVs  with speeds up to 43 mph and many failed to avoid the crash, so there is work to do before the compliance deadline of 2029.   However, the technology is expected to save 10,000 lives a year.

So what do you think about these new technologies?  At the Law Offices of John Day, everyday our award-winning lawyers see the physical, emotional and economic damage caused by car, truck, pedestrian and motorcycle accidents and we welcome technology that can reduce the carnage on our roadways.  However, we must be careful to not exchange one problem with another and we think careful regulation is necessary to avoid it.  As always, we are here if you need us:

Nashville: 615-669-3993

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