3 injured after semi-truck rear ends a pick-up truck and causes chain reaction

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Channel 4 reported on a horrible accident that occurred earlier this month in the morning hours on I-95.  A 63-year-old man was airlifted to UF Health with serious injuries after a crash involving a tractor trailer, an SUV and a pick-up truck hauling a U-Haul trailer full of clams. A St. Johns man was driving his 2003 Nissan Xterra southbound on Interstate 95 when he hit a Chevy pick-up truck that was disabled in the roadway about 12:45 a.m. Wednesday.  According to the FHP report, the pick-up, driven by a 40-year-old  male of Townsend, Georgia, had been pulling a U-Haul filled with clams southbound on I-95 when it was rear-ended by a semi-truck, driven by 50-year-old man from Marianna, Florida. The collision cause the pick-up to lose control and jackknife.  The semi then hit the left side of the pick-up, pushing it down the interstate. When the vehicles separated, the semi ended up on the inside shoulder next to the guardrail and the trailer broke from the pick-up.  The pick-up was left disabled on the highway and was struck by the XTerra, who suffered serious injuries. The drivers of the Chevy pick-up truck and the semi-truck suffered minor injuries, according to the FHP report.  One witness said he could see part of the U-Haul trailer wedged under the semi-truck. He said the rest of the trailer was separated about a quarter mile up the road.

Last October, the Florida Times Union reported that there was evolving technology that will hopefully cause a decline in semi-truck accidents.  According to the article, I-95 is one of the most heavily traveled and dangerous interstates in the United States. According to law enforcement authorities, it has the highest crash rate of any highway within Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. From 2011 to 2013, 20 people were killed and more than 200 were injured in commercial motor vehicle accidents along the 900-mile section of I-95 in these states.

According to NHTSA, on average, two to three rear-end collisions involving heavy trucks occur somewhere in the U.S. every hour. Regardless of who is at fault, when a semi is involved in a rear-end collision, the chances of fatalities and injuries are dramatically higher. In 2012, 3,514 people died in large truck crashes, 67 percent of whom were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles.

In response to these types of accidents, several companies are developing a new type of truck collision avoidance technology that is expected to significantly help reduce the amount of such accidents.  Ohio-based Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems and Meritor WABCO are two such companies. Both systems alert drivers to objects that could result in a rear-end collision and, when appropriate, apply brakes. But the promise of these new systems is limited due to current technology.  The latest Bendix system includes the basic elements of the enhanced speed control systems.

Enhanced speed control includes automatic braking to help drivers keep a safe distance between vehicles. The Bendix truck collision mitigation technology adds additional braking power when a forward collision is likely to happen. It also delivers a series of alerts when a stationary metallic object such as a stopped or stalled car is in a truck’s lane. The alerts and collision warnings sound up to three seconds before impact regardless of whether the truck driver has speed control engaged.  The system is always in operation when the truck is traveling more than 10 to 15 mph. There is no on/off switch.

Even though the system issues an alert, it will not automatically decelerate the vehicle when approaching a stationary metal object such as a stopped car.  Thomas with Bendix said the intricacies of the system make it so important for fleet owners to train the drivers using its system. Bendix trains the trainers for truck fleets.

T.J. Thomas, director of customer solutions for the Controls Group at Bendix, said fleet operators using the collision mitigation technology often tell him there have been significant reductions in rear-end collisions with the new system.

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that almost 300 fatalities a year would be prevented with crash-avoidance technology on trucks. The report also estimates the technology would result in $3.1 billion in economic benefits because of fewer crashes.  In another study, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimated that between 8,500 and 18,000 rear-end collisions could have been prevented from 2001 to 2005 had these systems been on trucks.  The report concluded, “With such promising potential to improve highway safety, this technology should be robustly deployed throughout the passenger and commercial fleets.”

I wonder if this alert system was in place for the semi-truck and whether he could have had enough time to have avoided this accident.  Regardless, our thoughts and prayers go out to all the injured parties in this horrible accident.  We hope they all have a speedy recovery.

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