Automobile drivers contribute more to fatal car-truck crashes than do the actions of truck drivers, according to a study by the American Automobile Association (AAA). The study, conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, focused on driver errors, which account for more than half of fatal car-truck crashes (54%).
"Motorists don't recognize that trucks behave very differently from cars, so they think trucks can stop on a dime and change lanes quickly," says J Peter Kissinger, chief executive officer of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "In reality, trucks take a long time to stop and cannot whip from lane to lane. As a result, a mistake near a truck can have catastrophic consequences for a motorist. In fact, in our study 98% of the fatalities were car occupants."
The most common actions that get drivers of both cars and large trucks into trouble include failure to keep in lane or running off the road, failure to yield the right of way, driving too fast for conditions or above speed limit, failure to obey signs and signals, and driver inattention.
Kissinger suggests that drivers:
•Never change lanes abruptly around a truck.
•Slow down to let trucks have the right of way.
•Drive at a safe speed.
•Stay alert to traffic signals and road conditions.
•Use turn signals.
•Avoid driving alongside or immediately behind a truck.
•Never cut in front of a truck, especially when it may need to stop.
The study analyzed nearly 46,000 fatal two-vehicle crashes recorded in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from 1995-1998. FARS is a national database of all fatal vehicle crashes in the United States and is based on police observations and investigators' findings.