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How dangerous are rear-end truck collisions?

June 20, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

Rear-end truck accidents now account for 22% of all large crashes

Tracey Morgan rear end truck collision

How dangerous are rear-end truck collisions?

I thought about this after I heard about the recent truck-limo bus crash that critically injured comedian Tracy Morgan, injured three others and took the life of Mr. Morgan’s friend and comedian, James McNair.

The limo bus in which Mr. Morgan and the others had been riding on the New Jersey turnpike was overturned after being rear-ended by a Georgia trucker driving a Walmart tractor-trailer, according to a report from CNN:

“[New Jersey State Police] says the driver of the [Walmart] tractor-trailer failed to observe slow-moving traffic ahead … At the last minute, he swerved to try and avoid the … limo bus, but struck it from behind, forcing the limo to rotate and overturn.”

I’ve represented hundreds of people injured in truck crashes.  I’m the past-president of the American Association for Justice’s Truck Accident Lawyer Group. In Michigan, I’m asked to litigate serious truck accident cases from other attorneys, and it has always been the largest part of my legal practice.

I also know first-hand how dangerous rear-end truck crashes can be. But most  drivers on the roads have no idea.

So today I want to share some information about the dangers of rear-end truck collisions, illustrated in the tragic truck accident involving Tracy Morgan.

Here are the important facts that I drivers  need to know:

  • Trucks “colliding with the rear end of another vehicle in the truck’s travel lane” is one of the “three major types of critical events” that make truck collisions unavoidable, according to the FMCSA’s “Large Truck Crash Causation Study,” which examined the reasons for serious crashes involving large trucks.
  • Rear-end truck collisions account for 22 percent of large-truck crashes, according to the same study.

But things don’t have to be this way.

Changes can be made to better protect drivers from the dangers of rear-end truck collisions.

Wisely, in its 2013 “Most Wanted List Page,” the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), issued a “mandate” for “motor vehicle collision avoidance technologies.”

Describing “[w]hat can be done” to combat the deadly dangers of “rear-end collisions,” the NTSB stated:

“There are technologies that can work with the driver to improve driver reaction time. Lane departure warning, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, and electronic stability control have all been proven to aid drivers when they are faced with unexpected conditions, particularly when traveling at highway speeds or when operating larger commercial vehicles that require greater stopping distances. Other systems, such as tire pressure monitoring, onboard monitoring (for commercial drivers), and speed-limiting technology, can warn drivers of imminent threats or diminish the possibility of encountering dangerous conditions.”

For more about truck safety, please check out my recent blog post, “A different perspective on the Tracy Morgan Crash,” where I talked about how the crash raised issues about whether the existing minimum insurance liability limits of $750,000 are adequate for big truck and whether backsliding on the FMCSA’s 2013 hours-of-service regulations will undermine trucking safety.


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