In 2012, the number of commercial drivers who had at least one prior speeding conviction before being involved in a fatal truck accident was close to 18 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that the majority of fatalities in large truck crashes in Georgia and across U.S. roadways are people in passenger vehicles. A collision with a much larger and heavier truck would be damaging to an automobile at any speed. When a truck exceeds the speed limit or drives too fast for current road conditions, the danger is increased exponentially.
Trucks that exceed safe driving speeds increase the potential severity of a crash in the following ways:
- High speeds shorten the time between when a driver detects danger, and when he or she can react.
- A vehicle requires a greater stopping distance after braking at high speeds.
- At higher speeds, crash energy increases.
For example, a 50 percent increase in speed, from 40 mph to 60 mph, increases the crash energy by 125 percent, according to IIHS. Consumer Reports states that the NHTSA conducts its crash tests at 35 mph, a speed the organization has established as a level that causes severe impact. Above this speed, safety mechanisms such as airbags and seatbelts lose their ability to counter the force of a collision with a large truck, another vehicle, or an object.
In a highway crash, passenger vehicles are easily outmatched by commercial trucks. Not only do trucks weigh an average of 20 to 30 times as much as a typical car, they sit much higher off the ground. In a accident at high speed, insufficient stopping distances can cause the car to ride under the truck, shearing off the roof of the car, and effectively eliminating survival space inside the vehicle.