Recent media attention on the number of highway fatalities caused by semi-trucks has many people asking whether our roads are indeed 'safe.' A fully loaded truck, like the one that slammed into the back of another truck on California's I-5 last month can do an intense amount of damage. In that particular accident, three people were killed and at least ten more injured when the truck entering the 550-foot underpass crashed into the truck in front, causing a massive pile-up and ultimately, an explosion. This isn't the first time the safety of sharing our roads with oversized semi-trailer trucks has been questioned. Trucking industry practices are continuously being reformed to address the number of fatalities these vehicles cause, including reducing the amount of time a truck driver is allowed to drive without a break, instituting new methods of driver payment that do not include "paid-by-the-mile" incentives, and adding more highway patrol officers designated to specifically crack down on truck drivers that don't keep proper log books or break traffic laws.
But is it enough? In theory, the enhanced safety measures are beneficial, but the process has been slow and for many families, too slow. The year 2000 marked the inception of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an organization dedicated to reduce the number of fatality accidents caused by large trucks. By 2005, not much had improved. Estimated numbers of annual fatalities caused by large trucks is still over 5,200. In other words, 100 families in the U.S.
lose a loved one due to a large truck fatality every week. So what can you do to protect yourself and your families? The trucking industry isn't going anywhere any time soon, and while we can hope that some of these measures begin to drastically reduce the number of highway deaths, now is the time to make sure you're driving the safest vehicles you possibly can. Even the safest vehicles may not be able to stand up to a collision with a semi, but there are certain vehicles that tend to fare better than others.
First, SUVs and pickup trucks generally keep their occupants safer than passenger cars when in collisions. While other factors obviously dictate how well passengers will be protected in a crash, such as the type of crash, the rate of speed the vehicles were moving, and the passive safety features installed on the vehicles, SUVs and pickups tend to be heavier and therefore sustain less damage. Other key factors to examine are the active and passive safety features of your vehicle. For example, while most SUVS offer dual stage airbags (the type that protect occupants from rear-end and head-on collisions by preventing contact with the dash and steering column), the Isuzu Ascender 5-Passenger also sports head-curtain side-impact airbags that protect the body from injuries caused by rolling or side-impacts. Taking the time to compare the safety features of your vehicle to the available safety features in models offered by car companies that are known for safety (like Isuzu and Volvo) will give an indication of deficits in your vehicles safety system.
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