Disabled Vehicle Crashes Often Overlooked
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently issued a press release that addressed the issue of highway fatalities that occurred during disabled vehicle crashes. The report addressed a number of ways in which these types of accidents could be mitigated in the future.
Each year, there are hundreds of fatalities and thousands of injuries caused by crashes that involve disabled or otherwise stopped vehicles. In some of the crashes, the disabled vehicle may not have been visible enough to other drivers. One study was commissioned by a company that manufactures a system of enhanced hazard lights. The study estimated that there were 566 fatalities and more than 14,000 people injured annually during the years from 2016-2018 in collisions involving stopped vehicles in which visibility played a likely role. The chief research officer for the IIHS identified these types of accidents as part of the road safety equation that to date had not received as much attention.
Analyzing the Data
In order to gather data regarding the visibility of disabled vehicles, researchers looked at federal crash statistics that included codes indicating when a crash involved a disabled or stopped vehicle. Then, to get an estimate as to how many of the disabled vehicle crashes could have been the result of a lack of conspicuousness, the researchers cross-checked the data with information from Florida police reports which included statements that the vehicle was difficult to see. The percentage was then applied to the larger data set.
The vast majority of inconspicuous disabled vehicle crashes involved a vehicle crashing into the stopped vehicle. However, over half of the fatalities and nearly 1 in 5 major injuries involved a vehicle striking a pedestrian who was working on, exiting, or returning to a stopped vehicle. This type of accident kills, on average, 300 pedestrians a year, and that number has increased by more than one-fourth since 2014 – which follows a trend of a rise in pedestrian fatalities in general.
Reducing the Number of Disabled Vehicle Crashes
The IIHS press release identified several potential changes that could reduce the number of disabled vehicle crashes in the future. They were:
- Warning motorists of a stopped vehicle ahead. Many driving apps already provide warnings if there is a stopped vehicle ahead. In the future, these may integrate with advanced driver assistance technologies which are becoming more common on new vehicles.
- Vehicle-to-vehicle communication. Within a decade or so, the current fleet of cars on U.S. highways will age out to the degree that the majority of vehicles will be able to exchange information wirelessly with each other.
- Improved hazard lighting systems. Hazard lights that engage automatically if a vehicle becomes disabled could help. The lights could also flash more frequently and emit brighter light – close to a third of the collisions in the study had their hazard lights on, so it is felt there is room for improvement.
- Traffic management practices. An example of an improvement in this area could be that two first responders are dispatched to a disabled vehicle, one to shield and protect with a warning apparatus those who are surrounding the stopped vehicle.
Watch the YouTube video. The clip below promotes enhanced hazard lighting systems. Warning: the video shows footage of car crashes that some may find disturbing.
Truckee Personal Injury Lawyer
Thanks for reading. I’m Ed Smith, a personal injury lawyer in Truckee, California. For more than 38 years, my law firm has advocated for injured Truckee residents and other Northern Californians. We have also represented many grieving families who have suffered the loss of a loved one in an auto accident. If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash caused by a negligent driver, reach out to our injury lawyers for compassionate, free, and friendly advice at (530) 392-9400 or (800) 404-5400.
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