In May, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed that all buses and large trucks install a speed limiter on board. The device would automatically regulate vehicles’ maximum speed across New Jersey and the rest of the United States.
The purpose of the law is to reduce fatal accidents involving these vehicles and to lower commercial fuel costs. But there remains a question: If the proposal becomes law, can it help deter truck accidents?
Doing more for public safety
The auto industry is already deploying better safety technologies for vehicles of all sizes. The new law would ask all new vehicles weighing over 26,000 pounds to have integrated speed-limit technology. The safety authority believes that forcing trucks to maintain between 60 and 68 mph on highways would help public safety go up significantly.
Will it work?
There are arguments that speed limiters will have as much a negative impact on big rig-related accidents as it might a positive. Concerns include the following:
- Speed differentiation: A difference in speed between automobiles on a highway means more interactions that lead to unsafe conditions. On multi-lane roads, speed limiters could create safety risks as vehicles with limiters conflict with passing speeders.
- More congestion: Bottlenecks are the result of different speeds traveling across the network. This issue will be noticeable on two-lane roads, but multi-lane highways will feel the impact more.
- Increased emissions: The overall emission reduction implies a greater flow of traffic. However, if speed limiters on trucks and buses lead to increased traffic congestion and forced speed adjustments by other vehicles, emissions might only grow.
Though the idea of speed limiters is sound, the likelihood that it will minimize truck accidents isn’t absolute. Speed and truck accidents make up only a fraction of traffic hazards, so safety advocates are looking at other solutions as well.
Many trucking companies have already employed speed limiters to improve fuel efficiency. However, some organizations say that truck accidents are far more about driver behavior and education than technologically enforced speed limits. Individuals who have been injured by irresponsible truck drivers may want to seek legal recourse.