A study released today by the American Automobile Assn. (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety shows the actions of car drivers contribute more to fatal car-truck crashes than do the actions of truck drivers.

"Motorists don't recognize that trucks behave very differently from cars, so they think trucks can stop on a dime and change lanes quickly," said J. Peter Kissinger, CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "In reality, trucks take a long time to stop and cannot whip from lane to lane. As a result, a mistake near a truck can have catastrophic consequences for a motorist."

The study, which analyzed nearly 46,000 fatal two-vehicle crashes recorded in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from 1995-1998, shows that more than 90% of those killed in car-truck crashes were car occupants.

"These tragedies are preventable," said Kissinger. "When car drivers understand how trucks are different, they can make allowances for the big rigs' limitations. By adjusting their driving style, motorists can safely and confidently share the road with large vehicles."

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety spokesperson Stephanie Faul told Fleet Owner that it is unlikely that driver habits have changed since 1998. She added that 1995-1998 was used for the study because it can take many years before such data is finalized.

Faul said a previous study on fatal car-truck crashes had been conducted by AAA Michigan in 1999, and that the numbers were not significantly different.

Responding to the study, AAA is re-launching its “Share With Care” program that offers practical advice to car and truck drivers on ways to avoid car-truck crashes.

“With more knowledge about ways to avoid truck/car crashes, drivers will be able to avoid often catastrophic collisions with large trucks,” said AAA vp of public affairs Susan Pikrallidas.

The safety initiative will be launched through its 80 clubs and more than 1,100 offices that will reach more than 45 million members and the general public. AAA will also provide safety messages through club publications and educational materials and through thousands of club-sponsored driver education and improvement programs.