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WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new study by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirms that reflective tape on trailers is preventing accidents.

The study estimates that fully-implemented federal visibility requirements for heavy trailers will prevent 7,800 crashes annually.

It also estimates that 191 to 350 fatalities per year will be prevented, along with 3,100 to 5,000 injuries, once all heavy trailers in the U.S. fleet have been equipped with highly reflective tape.

“Better visibility means fewer crashes, and fewer crashes translate into injuries prevented and lives saved,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

“Reflective tape is proving to be a very effective component in our plan to improve truck safety and support the Bush Administration’s goal to reduce the number of truck-related crashes.”

According to the 55-page study, reflective tape reduces side and rear crashes into heavy trailers, particularly at night “when even a vigilant motorist might not see an untreated trailer in time for a crash.”

The tape reduces side and rear impacts into heavy trailers by 29 per cent in the dark, the administration says.

But while the tape may reduce the likelihood of an accident, compliance with that and the NHTSA’s pre-1991 rules for lamps and reflective devices. The U.S. Court of Appeals, in case of Allye M. Harris v. Great Dane, upheld that the then NHTSA requirement was merely, “a minimum federal safety standard.” Manufacturers meeting that standard did not relieve it of compliance with “more rigorous common law safety obligations.”

As for the reflective tape, the NHTSA requires all heavy trailers manufactured after November 1993 to be equipped with highly reflective tape or its equivalent in the form of reflectors.

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