Lawmakers recently introduced a bill that could require driver assistance technology –including automatic emergency braking — as a way to cut down on distracted driving and protect first responders.

On April 27, 2021, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Senator Tammy Duckworth, and Representative Cheri Bustos introduced the “Protecting Roadside First Responders Act” as a way reduce crashes involving distracted driving and save lives, including preventing first responder roadside deaths.

The bill would require the implementation of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) on all new motor vehicles, including federal fleet vehicles. The proposed ADAS technology includes automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, blind-zone detection systems, and lane departure warnings. Several similar attempts have been made over the years to require ADAS technology on commercial vehicles.

If the bill passes into law, all new trucks would have to come equipped with ADAS technology within two years after the Final Rule is published.

The bill would also provide funding the deployment of digital alert technology for first responders, and to increase public awareness of “Move Over” laws.

A news release from Durbin’s office argues that advancing motor vehicle safety technology has saved hundreds of thousands of lives:

“Over the last three decades, every major surface transportation bill signed into law has advanced new technologies resulting in significant public safety improvements such as airbags, electronic stability control to prevent rollovers, and seat belts.  These advances have garnered bipartisan support and saved tens of thousands of lives.  In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that between 1960 and 2012, more than 600,000 lives have been saved by motor vehicle safety technologies.”

“We see heartbreaking stories of roadside accidents in Illinois every year due to distracted driving. To help save lives and reverse the alarming rise in first responder roadside deaths, we must increase the use of crash avoidance technologies and awareness of ‘Move Over’ laws,” Durbin said. “The Protecting Roadside First Responders Act will require life-saving technologies in all new vehicles while providing states with the resources they need to help keep our first responders safe.”

Several highway safety groups came out in support of the Protecting Roadside First Responders Act.

OOIDA currently opposes the required implementation of automatic emergency braking systems on commercial vehicles, arguing that more testing is required before the technology is deployed on a wide scale. In a recent letter to Congress, OOIDA outlined concerns with the practical application of the automatic emergency braking (AEB) technology:

We appreciate the Committee’s recognition that AEB systems, especially for heavy vehicles, have still not been perfected and drivers have encountered serious problems with the technology while on the road. We support language in Section 4404 that would require deficiencies to be reviewed prior to the development of a standard. However, we believe all deficiencies should be remedied before the technology is mandated across our industry – not simply those that USDOT determines to be ‘practical’. This is the only way to develop a standard that provides the reliability truckers need and deserve.

Additionally, OOIDA members have routinely shared practical concerns with current AEB technology, including difficulty controlling trucks in inclement weather when systems are activated, unwarranted activations, and highly distracting warnings and false alarms. This section must go further to fully address the apprehensions of the men and women who will eventually be forced to utilize these systems. Simply consulting with representatives of the driver community does not guarantee truckers’ concerns will be prioritized during a rulemaking. While we appreciate the Committee’s rejection of a retrofit provision in this section, we remain skeptical about how an AEB mandate will benefit small business truckers.

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