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Should commercial trucks be equipped with dash cams?

Written by Steve Gursten Posted May 19th, 2015

Recent experiences of two Roundtable attorneys show just how critical this information can be

dash cam truck

We’ve all seen on the recent news the debate about whether to pass legislation requiring police to wear body cameras.

The trucking industry is debating a similar issue – essentially, the equivalent of “body cameras” for truckers and bus drivers.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently issued a recommendation that heavy truck and bus fleet operators deploy video system recorder technology to monitor their drivers, according to a recent article by Transport Topics. Many commercial motor carriers have already implemented this, as installing this equipment is a way to minimize unsafe driver behavior and lower the risk of drivers violating safety rules and then causing preventable truck accidents.

We also believe this is an excellent move by the NTSB. Truck Roundtable founding attorneys Michael Leizerman and I are currently litigating a terrible wrongful death case in Arizona, and the cameras inside the vehicle showed clearly how negligent the driver was in causing the crash that took a man’s life.

And co-founding attorney Joe Fried and I are litigating the Michigan SMART bus accident that occurred in West Bloomfield and made national news when the SMART bus driver fell asleep and plowed into a line of cars including my client’s car – which was the first vehicle the bus crashed into.

Michael Leizerman also litigated the Oklahoma case in which a police officer was killed when a gas tank driver was on his cell phone behind the wheel. The driver claimed a truck was in front of him that cut off his view. However, the dash cam video indicated otherwise. The video actually showed that not only was there no other vehicle around, but that he was on his cell phone when his tanker truck ran through a police stop at full highway speed. The same thing on the largest truck accident settlement in America in 2014, the Ohio trucking wreck where video cameras on a police car nearby showed the truck driver’s first version of how the crash occurred was simply untrue.

Dash cam videos make or break these cases for attorneys. It’s a shame most attorneys who litigate trucking cases don’t ever bother to secure them, failing both to send out a preservation of evidence letter after a wreck has occurred, and then using outdated discovery and requests to produce that fail to even ask the defense attorneys to provide these videos in litigation.

Why the trucking industry and bus companies should embrace these safety tools

Studies have shown that when truck drivers and bus drivers know that their driving is under the watchful eye of a camera, they are generally more careful on the road.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute recently examined the effectiveness of DriveCam, an event-based onboard video system, when equipped on heavy trucks and buses. The study examined 10,648 crashes involving heavy trucks and buses pulled from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  General Estimates System from 2010 to 2012.

What the institute discovered was not only intriguing but eye opening:

When the cameras were in the vehicles, fatal and injury crashes were reduced by 20% and 35% respectively.

It seems that because truckers know they’re being recorded, they’re less likely to drive distracted, use illegal substances, speed, use cell phones, or do anything that violates the FMSCRs.

Given the research, a lot of good can come from this.  As the saying goes, “the camera doesn’t lie.”

Related information:

Evidence in semi truck cases

– Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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