Jewish World Review July 24, 2002 / 15 Menachem-Av, 5762

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Consumer Reports

Cars blamed for truck accidents | DEARBORN, Mich. A AAA Foundation study indicates errors committed by passenger car drivers generally are at fault more often than truck drivers in fatal car-truck accidents on U.S. highways.

The study, released Tuesday, found 65 percent of fatal car-car and car-truck accidents are the result of poor lane-changing, failure to yield, driving too fast for conditions or above the speed limit, failure to obey signs and signals or failure to pay attention. Vision-obscuring weather conditions also play a role.

The study also found car drivers generally fail to drive any differently around trucks than they do cars.

"What we find particularly interesting about the findings of the foundation is that people drive the same way around trucks as they do around other vehicles," said Susan Pikrallidas, AAA vice president of public affairs. "This is actually good news for drivers because it tells us if we simply change the way we drive around trucks, we can significantly reduce involvement in crashes with trucks and ultimately save lives."

The AAA study examined 46,000 fatal two-vehicle accidents recorded in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System between 1995 and 1998.

"Motorists don't recognize that trucks behave very differently from cars, so they think trucks can stop on a dime and change lanes quickly," said Richard J. Miller, manager of community safety services for AAA Michigan.

"In reality, trucks take a long time to stop and cannot whip from lane to lane. As a result, a mistake near a truck can have catastrophic consequences for a motorist. In fact, in our study, over 90 percent of those killed were car occupants."

The study found fatigue played a role in car-truck fatalities among 87 percent of car drivers, compared with 13 percent of truckers, and car drivers were cited for illegal lane changes 73 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for truckers.

About 5,000 people die annually in car-truck accidents, accounting for about 12 percent of total fatalities.

AAA said it would start an aggressive safety education campaign through its 80 clubs to teach drivers how to avoid such accidents. The foundation recommended the education program include Web and computer simulations to demonstrate the differences between car and truck handling.

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