Would more truck accidents be prevented if the law required dash cams in tractor trailers? We believe so. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Pennsylvania Crash Facts & Statistics report for 2016, there were 6,740 heavy trucks involved in accidents in PA last year. Of those truck accidents, 2,831 involved injuries and 139 of them were fatal — that’s about one death every three days.
For truck accidents where a tractor trailer or other heavy vehicle struck another vehicle, more than half of those accidents involved passenger cars and 30% involved light trucks, vans, or SUVs. When a tractor trailer is involved in such an accident, having a dash cam can be extremely important for those involved.
Benefits of Dash Cams in Tractor Trailers
Most telematics systems currently in use in the transportation industry record data such as gas mileage, location, speed, acceleration, and deceleration. While such detailed data can provide an excellent snapshot of what the truck driver was doing at the time of a crash, it tells nothing about what was going on around the driver. For example, it might be possible to determine the exact second that a truck driver hit the brakes or swerved violently, but not whether the crash was caused by driver error.
Dash cams, however, add a whole new level of information. Installing dash cams in tractor trailers shows what was going on directly in front of the vehicle at all times. Maybe the driver hit the brakes because a smaller vehicle cut him off. Or perhaps the truck driver swerved too late to avoid an obvious obstacle, suggesting he was not paying close attention to the road. If an accident was involved, such footage can quickly establish the facts of the accident.
Dash cam footage can be a vital piece of evidence in many accident trials, establishing who was at fault without the use of accident reconstruction specialists working with limited, unreliable information. Dash cam footage, unlike witness testimony, is a completely objective presentation of facts. Witness testimony can be useful, but our memories can become distorted due to stress, time, or simply because we may want to remember something in a certain way. Dash cams, of course, are not subject to the same complications inherent in human recollection.
Dash cams in tractor trailers can also provide information that is easily forgotten or missed during an accident, especially if someone involved left the scene. License plate numbers, the driver of the vehicle, and other such details can be easily obtained from the camera’s footage.
Another benefit for tractor trailers to use dash cams lies in their ability to prevent dangerous or careless driving by truck drivers. It is human nature to perform at our best when we know someone is watching, and having dash cams in tractor trailers can cause drivers to exercise heightened awareness. This can reduce unsafe practices, susceptibility to distractions such as smart phones, and reckless behavior on the road.
Statistics from a 2015 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report show that dash cams promote safe driving habits and can reduce accidents. Dash cams also enable good, safe drivers to be confident that false accusations made against their driving practices can be disproved by actual footage.
Dash Cams for the Trucking Industry
Many trucking companies have installed dash cams on all the trucks in their fleet. This is really to their benefit: it promotes safer driving, provides accountability, and records information that can help the trucking company optimize their routes and procedures. While some drivers consider this to be an invasion of their privacy, a surprising majority are in favor of the presence of dash cams.
The NTSB supports the use of dashboard cameras, as well as inward facing cameras that are triggered by events including impact, sudden braking, or swerving. The NTSB has made a practice of using dash cam footage in accident investigations, and has pushed for onboard cameras to be made mandatory for fleets of heavy trucks and buses.
When Truck Drivers Lie About Dashboard Cameras
Sadly, not all tractor trailer drivers or trucking companies are going to be honest about the use of dash cams when an accident occurs. If the driver knows that he or she was at fault, both the driver and the trucking company would benefit from claiming that there was no dash cam, that the dash cam was not on, or that the dash cam was faulty. This has become a popular trick for unscrupulous trucking companies to use when they are at fault in an accident. To prevent the trucking company from destroying potential evidence such as dash cam footage, the defendant should be sent a “spoliation of evidence” letter requesting that evidence not be destroyed or altered.
Experienced Chester and Delaware County Truck Accident Lawyers
We support dash cams in tractor trailers becoming law. If you or someone you care about has been a victim of an accident involving a tractor trailer in the greater Philadelphia area, Donaghue & Labrum can help. We represent victims of tractor trailer accidents where the truck is at fault; we also represent truck drivers who were not at fault. Unlike many firms who are inexperienced with tractor trailer cases, we know how to make sure that dash cam footage is not lied about or destroyed.
At Donaghue & Labrum, we understand that your losses involve more than the cost of your vehicle. We have many years of experience fighting for victims of truck accidents to receive the compensation they deserve. Call us today and we’ll get started on your case immediately.