Number of fatal truck accidents on the Autobahn almost doubled in 2021
Last year, 46% more HGV drivers lost their lives on German motorways than in 2020, while the number of deaths in all road accidents fell by 10%. According to experts, most of the fatal HGV accidents occur when a lorry runs into the last vehicle stationary in a traffic jam.
In 2021, 70 professional drivers lost their lives in traffic jams on the German motorways, a staggeringly high number compared to the 48 cases counted in 2020.
The German Federal Statistical Office estimates that in 2021, the number of road deaths fell by 10% to 2,450 due to a drop in traffic as a result of coronavirus. This number is so low that it has not been lower in the 65 years since the statistics were recorded.
However, in the case of HGV drivers, the stats office recorded a 46% increase on last year, reports the German DVZ.de.
“Accidents usually happen during peak hours, with increased traffic on transit routes, usually at the end of congestion formed due to road works,” said Dieter Schäfer, former head of the Mannheim Traffic Police.
40-tonne vehicles often run into the vehicle in front of them almost without control, causing drivers to be crushed in their cabs, he adds.
“Built-in emergency systems aren’t worth much if the driver can’t use them properly”
Nowadays, most lorries are being equipped with driver assistance systems, but the driver’s behaviour can make them useless, according to the expert.
“Just before the collision, the driver gets scared and automatically pulls the steering wheel to the side, interrupting the braking cascade,” explains Schäfer, the leader of the Hellwach mit 80 km / h association. “Many drivers have not been taught how to handle the technology of the complex emergency braking system that is now widespread.”
According to the Hellwach mit 80 km / h association, whose aim is to educate drivers and thus decrease the number of such accidents, two particularly important things could be done to change this tragic trend.
Firstly, drivers should be better educated. This would be the responsibility of hauliers, not just training sites.
And secondly, the association says, another cause of the accidents is driver fatigue and stress generated by the poor working and living conditions. Often already from noon, lorry drivers start worrying about finding a parking place for the night. Once they finally manage to get that space, they won’t have a restful sleep because of the highway noise, Schäfer says.
According to a survey published in 2020, one in four drivers said they fell asleep at the wheel one or three times in the previous year.