According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, accidents involving 18-wheelers or large trucks increased by about 18 percent in a three-year time frame, with fatalities caused by truck accidents increasing from about 3,200 in 2009 to nearly 3,800 in 2012. In addition to the increase in fatalities, the number of serious injuries also increased by about 45 percent. This trend of increases in both fatalities and serious injuries involving semi-trucks is unsettling for several reasons, including the fact that, given the size difference between a semi-truck and car, occupants of a car are more likely to suffer serious injuries and even be killed.

A question many Montana residents may ask themselves is what causes truck accidents? One of the reasons that has been highlighted and took center stage recently was comedian Tracy Morgan’s vehicle collision with a Wal-Mart 18-wheeler truck earlier in the year. Truck driver fatigue was cited as a reason for that accident. The truck driver indicated that he had not slept for at least 24 hours prior to the crash with Morgan’s limousine.

Truck driver fatigue has recently been in the spotlight, but Montana residents may find it interesting to know that a new technology that is being scrutinized by the trucking industry can yield safer roads by helping fatigued truck drivers stay more alert when they’re behind the wheel. This new system consists of cameras that are installed in the driving cabin of the truck that monitor the truck driver while the truck is moving. Specifically, the cameras monitor the truck driver’s eyes and as soon as they sense that the driver’s eyelids are starting to droop in a manner reminiscent of someone who is about to fall asleep, they sound a loud audible alarm that alerts the driver that he or she may be falling asleep.

Such new technologies offer hope that truck accidents may be reduced; when drivers are sharing the roads with 18-wheelers, there are bound to be accidents.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, “Droopy Eyelid Detector One Solution to Truck Crashes,” Jeff Plungis, Oct. 7, 2014