Why do we accept highway deaths?

Dear Editor:
You've seen it: the micro car whizzing around the back of your trailer, seemingly from nowhere. You can only hold your breath and hope they aren't making a fatal mistake. Thousands of passenger cars collide with big trucks every year, causing nearly 5,000 deaths last year. While general fatalities on the highway are down, deaths involving crashes with trucks are rising, going against the trend.

While we feel anguish over the loss of our soldiers on foreign soil, and justifiably so, we seem to accept highway deaths as inevitable — without question. More than 40,000 people died on our roads last year. Yet more people die in cars than in combat fatigues every day.

United States Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta merely points out the fact that less than 5,000 were killed, rather than bemoaning such a large loss of life that is largely preventable. Everyday, nearly 14 people die in truck-related accidents, according to the statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Thousands more are injured, costing our country billions in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

The report shows that the majority of truck crashes involve at least one passenger vehicle, and errors made by car drivers account for 75% of the car-truck crashes. Still, improved seat belt use, better training for drivers, and information to passenger car drivers can continue to decrease fatalities. There are also a large number of safely tools available to trucking companies, such as sensors that can detect the sometimes-unpredictable moves of car drivers. In one recent 10-week test using sensors, truck drivers reported avoiding 175 crashes, including one potentially devastating one with the driver of a fast lane-changing Miata.

We do not have to accept highway fatalities as a fact of life. We must make highways safer for those who travel them. We have the tools, from education to affordable technology, to save lives. Let's make them work to keep us all safe from harm.
Michael Coyle, chief executive officer Transportation Safety Technologies

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