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Study confirms reflective tape on trucks reduces fatalities


A new study by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirms that the reflective tape now being required to make trailers on big trucks easier to see is effective in preventing crashes.

According to the 55-page study, reflective tape reduces side and rear crashes into heavy trailers, particularly at night “when even a vigilant motorist might not see an untreated trailer in time for a crash.” The tape reduces side and rear impacts into heavy trailers by 29 percent in the dark.

The study estimates that fully-implemented federal visibility requirements for heavy trailers will prevent 7,800 crashes annually, and predicts that 191 to 350 fatalities per year will be prevented, along with 3,100 to 5,000 injuries, once all heavy trailers in the U.S. fleet have been equipped with highly reflective tape.

“Reflective tape is proving to be a very effective component in our plan to improve truck safety and support the Bush Administration’s goal to reduce the number of truck-related crashes. Better visibility means fewer crashes, and fewer crashes translate into injuries prevented and lives saved,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

NHTSA requires all heavy trailers manufactured after November 1993 to be equipped with highly reflective tape or its equivalent in the form of reflectors. In March 1999, the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Motor Carriers (now the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) required that the entire on-the-road fleet of heavy trailers be so equipped by June 1, 2001.

The Florida Highway Patrol and the Pennsylvania State Police collected data for the NHTSA study between 1997 and 1999. Together, the two law enforcement agencies amassed information on 10,959 crash cases involving heavy trailers.