On July 19, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), Rep. Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-IL), and Matt Cartwright (D-PA) announced the introduction of several new highway safety bills. This legislation would increase highway safety as well as allow higher payouts for victims of truck accidents. Dozens of truck crash survivors and families were in Washington, DC, for the announcement.
The Safe Roads Act of 2019 (H.R. 3773) would require all new commercial motor vehicles to be equipped with an automatic emergency braking system.
Rep. Johnson first introduced the bill in 2011. He reintroduced the bill in 2015 after two separate severe tractor-trailer accidents occurred on the same stretch of highway in Georgia. The accidents resulted in the deaths of 10 people, leaving three others seriously injured. The accidents happened when the trucks failed to stop in a traffic slowdown, and ended up plowing into several cars ahead of them.
“Tragically, the simple installation of automatic braking systems on all commercial motor vehicles might have prevented these deaths and countless others across the country,” said Rep. Johnson. “America’s roads and highways should be safe for all drivers. Taking full advantage of technologies that are available and proven to anticipate and prevent crashes will save lives.” The legislators noted that the $500 safety feature could save many lives.
The legislation was announced during the biennial Sorrow to Strength conference, which occurred at the U.S. Capitol. The conference comprised workshops on truck safety issues, advocacy for truck safety, and a remembrance ceremony for those who tragically lost their lives in truck accidents. The conference was organized by the Truck Safety Coalition with the support of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Roads Safe America. The Truck Safety Coalition is a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT). The group is dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes.
Garcia and Cartwright also introduced another highway safety bill, this one aiming at increasing the required minimum level of insurance for large trucks. The Improving National Safety by Updating the Required Amount of Insurance Needed by Commercial Motor Vehicles (INSURANCE) Act would increase the minimum amount of insurance that large trucks are required to carry. This increase would ensure greater accountability to families injured or killed in truck crashes.
The legislation seeks to correct the shortcomings of the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, which set minimum insurance coverage without including measures to account for future increases. The new bill requires insurance minimums to be updated regularly on pace with inflation and tied to the increasing cost of medical treatment.
In 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a report to Congress that studied whether the current financial responsibility requirements for motor carriers was adequate. The report concluded that the costs of injuries and fatalities arising from crashes far exceed the minimum insurance levels interstate operators are required to carry.
As the law stands today, trucks are required to carry minimum insurance coverage of $750,000. However, this amount is insufficient to pay for medical expenses in the case of a serious accident, leaving thousands of crash victims without the financial resources to pay their medical bills or return to their prior quality of life. What’s more, when families can’t pay these medical bills and are saddled with crippling debt, they often turn to Medicare and Medicaid. Instead of truck companies paying the burden of health care costs from accidents they caused, the costs are borne by the American taxpayers.
If passed, the INSURANCE Act would provide victims of truck accidents with higher payouts to compensate for their injuries and other damages. The minimum insurance level, set at $750,000 in 1980, is no longer adequate to compensate victims of a severe truck accident. The INSURANCE Act would tie the minimum insurance level to the rate of inflation of medical care as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every five years.
Statistics released by the Truck Safety Coalition reported 4,761 truck crash fatalities in the United States in 2017, an increase of 41 percent since 2007. In addition to the Safe Roads Act and the INSURANCE act, the Truck Safety Coalition also urges the passage of the following measures:
- Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act (S. 2033)
- Stop Underrides Act (H.R. 1511 and S. 665)
The bills would greatly increase highway safety by reducing the number of truck accidents caused by trucks unable to stop in time. The bills would also be a great help to victims of truck accidents and their families, whose lives are forever changed due to a tragic accident. Increased accountability for trucking companies is long overdue, and will greatly benefit anyone who has tragically been injured in a truck accident.
If you have been involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer or a semi, you know that the injuries can be devastating or even debilitating. Not only do they change your life forever, but they also dramatically affect your family and loved ones. At the Hammack Law Firm, we know and understand the tragic consequences of truck accidents.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident in South Carolina, we are here for you. The hard-working team of personal injury attorneys at Hammack Law Firm can help you see the light at the end of the tunnel. We offer the best skills in litigation and excellent customer service to help you through this stressful and challenging time. We will help you obtain the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering. Call us today at (864) 326-3333 for a free consultation.