Lawsuits Seek To Force Trucks To Equip Life-Saving Crash Avoidance Technology

As effective crash avoidance technology becomes standard in nearly all new automobiles, a number of lawsuits are now being pursued against manufacturers of semi and large trucks, over severe injuries suffered in accidents that could have been avoided if similar features had been included.

According to a recent report by The Kansas City Star, at least two product liability lawsuits have been filed this year against truck manufacturers, seeking to hold the companies liable for failure to include forward crash warnings and automatic braking systems in semi-trucks, indicating that the safety technology has been proven to save lives and should be standard in all vehicles.

The complaints have been filed in Indiana and Kansas, involving claims brought by surviving family members of individuals killed in truck accident, which the lawsuits claim could have been prevented if the semi and large trucks were equipped with Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) technology.

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The Kansas lawsuit names Daimler Trucks North America and its parent company Daimler AG as the defendants, alleging a 2015 Freightliner Cascadia sold by the company was defective, since it was not equipped with the available safety technology.

A family of five individuals was killed on July 11, 2017, when a driver of the Daimler truck caused a seven vehicle pile-up on the Kansas City Turnpike, near Bonner Springs. His Freightliner Cascadia was not equipped with any type of forward crash warning system or automatic emergency braking, the lawsuit claims.

Plaintiffs claim Daimler chose not to offer the systems standard on the new trucks, because it was not mandated by federal regulators. However, the manufacturer equips all of the European versions of its vehicles with forward crash avoidance and emergency braking systems.

A similar lawsuit was filed in Indiana state court naming Volvo as the defendant, alleging the manufacturer continues withhold readily-available crash avoidance systems on new trucks sold.

Crash Avoidance Technology

Forward collision systems are designed to alert drivers of hazards ahead so they may apply the brakes or veer away from the hazard in time to avoid a crash. The systems do not apply the brakes, but scan the roadways measuring distances between the vehicle and the obstacle and provide warning tones or visual alerts to notifying drivers to brake or steer away.

Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) technology includes systems designed to prevent collisions where the driver fails to react fast enough, or does not apply sufficient braking power, to avoid or mitigate a crash. The AEB systems use multiple on-vehicle sensors such as radar, cameras, as well as lasers, to detect potential crash threats. AEBs are designed to recognize collision threats from these sensors and engage the vehicle’s brakes.

Under current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) mandated by the National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA), truck and trailer manufacturers are required to contain rear impact guards and rear impact protection to prevent truck underride accidents, where cars end up underneath of larger tractor-trailers during a crash. These types of truck accidents are extremely dangerous and frequently cause severe or life threatening injuries to the front passengers’ heads and upper torsos.

However, there are currently no regulations in the U.S. which require tractor-trailer vehicles be equipped with forward collision systems.

Past studies have found forward collision warning and AEB systems can reduce front-to-rear crashes by nearly half. In a previous study involving Acura, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru and Volvo vehicles, the combination of the two technologies reduce crashes by 50 percent overall, and by 56 percent for those involving injuries.


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