Automatic emergency braking systems are either standard or optional equipment on many of the passenger vehicles available in West Virginia and around the country, and car makers have vowed to equip all of their vehicles with this potentially life-saving technology by 2022. However, few semi-tractor trailers are fitted with such systems despite evidence suggesting that they are highly effective and an alarming increase in truck accident fatalities over the last two decades.

The National Transportation Safety Board made the first of at least 10 calls for NHTSA to mandate commercial vehicle automatic emergency braking systems in 1990. The agency says that the technology is currently being tested and evaluated in the field. This testing is expected to be completed within the next two years according to the agency. Logistics industry trade groups have opposed a new regulation. Organizations including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say that new rules should be implemented on a voluntary basis.

The number of truck accident fatalities has risen by 28 percent since 2009, and many of the 4,300 road users killed in such crashes in 2016 lost their lives when tractor-trailers struck the back of the vehicles they were traveling in. Truck operators that have fitted automatic emergency braking systems report that the technology can reduce this type of collision by more than 70 percent.

The kind of accidents that commercial vehicle automatic braking systems are designed to prevent often involve distracted, fatigued or impaired tractor-trailer drivers. These crashes are usually investigated thoroughly when road users have been killed or seriously injured. The evidence gathered by law enforcement could be used by experienced personal injury attorneys pursuing truck accident lawsuits when it reveals that truck drivers had consumed alcohol or taken drugs, violated federal hours of service regulations or were using cellphones or other electronic devices.