AAA Study Says Motorists to Blame in Majority of Fatal Car-Truck Wrecks

The country’s largest association of motorists, AAA, has finally released a controversial report that finds motorists are at fault in the vast majority of fatal car-truck accidents.

The study, which looked at more than 10,000 fatal car-truck accidents occurring between 1995 and 1998, focused on the driver behaviors that contributed to the accident. According to the study, car drivers involved in fatal accidents with trucks tend to drive “in the same manner around trucks as they do around other cars.”

Motorists commonly failed to stay in their lane, failed to yield right-of-way, drove too fast for conditions or in excess of speed limits, failed to obey traffic signs, lights and laws, and were inattentive. Additionally, four other driver behaviors played a significant role in car-truck crashes: following improperly; driving with vision obscured by rain, snow, fog, sand or dust; drowsy or fatigued driving; and improper lane changing.

The study was limited to two-vehicle accidents because more than 80 percent of fatal car-truck accidents during the study period involved only a single car and big rig. Car drivers accounted for 98 percent of the fatalities.

This analysis also confirmed earlier studies that the actions of car drivers contribute more to fatal car-truck crashes than do the actions of truck drivers.

“These tragedies are completely preventable,” says J. Peter Kissinger, CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “A mistake near a truck can have catastrophic consequences for a motorist. When car drivers understand how trucks are different, they can make allowances for the big rigs’ limitations. By adjusting their driving style, motorists can safely and confidently share the road with large vehicles.”

The study was controversial because several former staffers of AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety told newspapers recently that the motorist advocate and travel group was trying to suppress the results that reflected poorly on its core membership.

The study also found that younger truck drivers were more likely than older truck drivers to follow improperly, speed and use alcohol or drugs. AAA recommends development of educational materials and simulators to better inform motorists how to drive around big trucks.

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