Why the financial crisis is reducing truck accidents
Horror truck accident: four people were injured on the A2 near Hamm when three trucks and a car collided. Subjectively, the number of truck crashes is growing steadily, but objectively not…remove them
Source: dpa / DPA
Accidents with trucks are the horror of the motorists. Because usually the smaller vehicle has no chance against the truck. However, in contrast to the number felt, the actual number of truck crashes is particularly on the freeway. The police identified the economic crisis as the reason.
E.It’s shortly after three in the morning and traffic on the A2 is slowing down. Cars and trucks jam for one kilometer between Braunschweig Ost and Braunschweig Hafen. In front of them one of the many construction sites in the country that make traveling this summer a particular drag. At the end of the traffic jam, two articulated lorries from Eastern Europe come to a standstill. Suddenly a 40-ton truck thunders onto the truck, pushing the two of them together.
The 61-year-old driver has loaded ceramic parts that catch fire immediately. His tractor burns out. The man is hospitalized with third degree burns. The highway is closed for hours. In the three weeks before, three serious accidents involving trucks had already occurred on the route, which is often referred to as “Warschauer Allee” because of its high east-west transit volume.
The fact that in the sensational mass accident on July 19, no trucks pushed between the 259 cars that had crashed into each other during a thunderstorm, was solely due to the fact that the crash happened on Sunday – when trucks are banned from driving.
It has been a long time since it was possible to cover a kilometer of the motorway without driving past trucks from all over the world. Quite a few drivers feel threatened by them. Especially in construction sites, where there is hardly an arm’s length between the vehicles pushing side by side, many experience an unpleasant adrenaline rush. The news of serious accidents like the one on the A2 does its part to ensure that trucks are perceived as moving time bombs. The fact that trucks are involved in half of all accidents on the A2 alone makes this fear appear extremely well-founded.
But the number of truck accidents that harm people has been declining for years, and the number of trucks on German roads has not only felt but actually increased enormously. This is confirmed by calculations by the Federal Association of Freight Transport, Logistics and Disposal (BGL).
While between 1992 and 2008 the transport performance – measured in tons of goods that were transported one kilometer – increased by 87.9 percent, the number of fatalities decreased by 46.6 percent in relation to this, and that of seriously injured by 40.2 percent . In figures: In 1992 there were 15,228 seriously injured and fatal accidents involving trucks (from workshop vehicles to 40-ton trucks), in 2008 it was 8982.
The reason for the decline is the improved safety technology of the trucks. "The rattling box from Eastern Europe that is so popular is almost non-existent," says Martin Bulheller, spokesman for the BGL. The fleets are getting younger and younger all over Europe, the technical reliability has increased significantly.
In view of the still high number of dead and injured, the police would like additional security technology. "Driver assistance systems should be prescribed for the trucks", demands Hubert Schwaninger, head of the Braunschweig motorway police. Indeed, the European Union is acting.
A decision is currently being made on a regulation that will make three different technical systems mandatory for new vehicles from 2014. One of them warns the driver with a beep when he leaves the lane – one of the most common causes of accidents is driver fatigue. Another system brakes the vehicle if it falls below a certain distance from the previous one. Finally, an electronic stability program helps the driver to stay in control in critical situations – such as problematic speed in bends. Cars should also be equipped in this way.
The headline-grabbing events on the Braunschweig autobahn hide the fact that the number of accidents is also falling here. But new safety measures are not responsible for this, even if the three districts of Peine, Gifhorn and Helmstedt recently bought a distance measuring device that registers drivers who are too close to the others.
The economic crisis is having a more effective impact on traffic. The BGL calculates that truck drivers’ performance fell by 15 percent in the whole of Germany in the first quarter. Less goods are being transported.
The truck volume in the area of responsibility of the Braunschweig motorway police has decreased by 13 percent. Your manager Hubert Schwaninger sums it up like this: "It sounds cynical, but it is like this: the economic crisis creates more traffic safety".
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