Public Affairs

AAA recommends safety features for large trucks

Semi truck on road

Many people behind the wheel feel nervous when driving near an 18-wheeler on the freeway.

In fact, a new AAA survey found that about 60% of U.S. adults feel less safe when driving by a large commercial truck than when passing a smaller vehicle.

These drivers were concerned about commercial trucks beacuse of their:

Large size and length

28% of participants

Reduced visibility and blind spots

18% of participants

Potential to drift or swerve

14% of participants

About a fourth of U.S. adults say adding safety technology to commercial trucks would help alleviate their fears. According to recent research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, equipping large trucks with advanced safety technologies has the potential to prevent up to 63,000 crashes each year. For comparison, in 2015, large trucks were involved in 400,000 crashes that resulted in more than 4,000 deaths and 116,000 injuries. About a fourth of U.S. adults say adding safety technology to commercial trucks would help alleviate their fears.

What improvements can be made?

AAA examined safety benefits and costs of the following 4 advanced safety technologies in both existing and new large trucks:

  • Lane departure warning system

Monitors where the vehicle is in the lane and provides a warning the driver can hear or feel if the system senses the vehicle drifting from its lane

  • Automatic emergency braking system

Applies brakes if the system detects the vehicle is in imminent danger of hitting the vehicle in front of it

  • Air disc brakes

Help prevent rear-end crashes by reducing stopping distance compared to traditional drum brakes

  • Video-based onboard safety monitoring system

Records the operating environment and driver behavior, thus allowing a risk manager to help promote safer driving habits and discourage dangerous behavior

Researchers found that societal safety benefits of equipping large trucks with lane departure warning and video-based onboard safety monitoring systems far outweigh the costs. Researchers also found the benefits of equipping all new trucks with automatic braking or air disc brakes could outweigh costs.

No matter what vehicle you drive, there are several ways you can help reduce safety risks when driving near large trucks:

  • Be aware of large blind spots. If you cannot see the driver in the truck’s side view mirror, the driver likely can't see you. 
  • Leave plenty of following room, especially when coming to a stop on a hill. Trucks may roll back as the driver steps off the brake.
  • Wait until you see a truck's headlights in your rear-view mirror before pulling in front of it. Trucks take longer to stop and may need extra space.
  • Avoid speeding up when a truck is passing or signaling to change lanes. Instead, slow down and give the truck ample room to pass. 
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