By Mark Boada, Executive Editor
Fatal accidents with trucks hitting cyclists and pedestrians are showing an alarming increase. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, from 2009 through 2017, the latest period for data on the subject, the number of pedestrians killed in collisions with big trucks has increased by 44 percent, and those with cyclists by 36 percent. Meanwhile, independent research indicates the numbers have been increasing recently by nearly 10 percent a year.
While the advent of smartphones may be partly responsible – it’s given rise not just to distracted driving, but distracted walking as well – it doesn’t seem to explain the increase in cyclist fatalities. Maybe it’s the fact that traffic volume has increased since the Great Recession, or that more people have taken to riding bicycles in urban centers.
Whatever the reason, it’s clear that truck drivers need more help avoiding collisions with vulnerable road users (VRU), particularly those in trucks’ right-side blind zones as drivers make a right turn.
Now, it’s not that blind spot detectors haven’t been available for a number of years – they have. It’s just that they often suffer from false alerts and the inability to distinguish from fixed objects – like a trash can, guard rail or utility pole — from a moving human being. That is, however, until the latest advance in blind spot detectors, the Side Defender II, rolled out this year by PRECO Electronics, a Boise, Idaho-based company that’s been a leader in truck safety technology for more than 70 years.
As you might guess from its name, the Side Defender II is an upgrade over its predecessor, the Side Defender, a blind spot collision warning system that’s been on the market since 2016. The key difference between them and other brands is a computer algorithm that works in conjunction with radar signals and GPS to detect whether an object in the blind spot is moving or is stationary – all the difference in determining whether the object will be in the path of a turning vehicle.
The system consists of a radar sensor that can be mounted on the side of a truck’s cab and an in-cab display mounting inside the cab that provides both a visual and audible alert when an object is detected. The device works when a truck is traveling at speeds above 20 mph to sound a lane-change alert, as well as at 19 mph and below to detect cyclists and pedestrians.
The company declined to site figures on the device’s effectiveness, but it’s worth noting that it’s been approved by the German KBA, that country’s federal transport authority, and is being sold through the global dealer network of Scania, AB, a leading maker of trucks and buses based in Sweden.
Whether you manage a fleet of local delivery, utility or long-haul transport big rigs and are looking for an extra measure of safety against VRU collisions, the Preview Side Defender II might be worth a look. For more information, visit PRECO Electronics’ website, at www.preco.com.