Save Lives by Lighting up Tractor Trailers and Tanker Trucks

Save Lives by Lighting up Tractor Trailers and Tanker Trucks

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Cathy Forman started this petition to STATE DEPARTMENTS OF TRANSPORTATION and

On a dark October night in Texas in 2018, my sister was driving her nineteen-year-old daughter back to college.  A tanker truck pulled onto the unlit highway from a side road, crossing three lanes of traffic.  My sister – driving in the rightmost lane in a mini van — plowed into the underside of the tanker.  The results of that crash can be seen in the photo above.

My sister never returned home.  My niece never saw her college again.  They were both killed instantly – pronounced dead at the scene. 

There were no skid marks.  The reason for there being no skid marks is simple:  my sister never saw the tanker.

She never saw the tanker because it was painted dark blue and had no lights on the sides that were clean and clearly visible.  It was the highway version of a Stealth vehicle.

  In 2018, 96% of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck were occupants of the passenger vehicles. (IIHS, 2019) (Source:

 In 2018, 37% of all fatal crashes, involving large trucks occurred at night (6:00 pm to 6:00 am). (FMCSA, 2016) (Source:

  “The main factor related to the driver's ability to see a crossing truck is target conspicuity, or how well an object stands out from its background. Target conspicuity relies largely on contrast characteristics such as color, movement, brightness, shape and size.  Most commonly with trucks, the misconception is that their large size by itself makes them conspicuous. At night the size of the trailer by itself will not make it conspicuous since other contrast problems will make the trailer virtually invisible. Without any close-in lighting reflecting off the painted surface of the trailer, it will appear black against the black background. Then an approaching driver will have to rely on the side marker lights for his only cue to the presence of the trailer. However, even with the legal placement of marker lights on the sides of the trailer, approaching drivers will still often not perceive the trailer as an obstruction blocking their path. Marker lights are small and can be spaced as far as 26 feet apart on the side of a trailer, not providing on-coming drivers with enough information to determine that what they are looking at is a trailer. Marker lights can be misleading, and without an external light source, trailers are often not identified until the headlights of oncoming vehicles directly illuminate them. When their headlights illuminate the trailer, on-coming drivers will only be 100 to 200 feet away, and unable to stop at higher speeds.”

  “Retroreflective tape is very effective in making trailers visually --stand out. However, a truck driver should never assume that the presence of this tape on a trailer will automatically guarantee that the trailer will be seen. If the tape is dirty, badly worn, or if the truck is at a steep angle to traffic, oncoming drivers may not be alerted to the presence of the trailer. The underride hazard is still present. Therefore Lights all around the sides are a much better alternative.”

An in-depth discussion of causes of underride collisions can be found at: Truck Underride Collision Analysis


If the tanker had been painted silver…if the vehicle had lights illuminating the entire outline of the tanker…it would have been visible.  My sister would be home making dinner for her ten kids.  My niece would be graduating from Texas A&M.


We the people of the United States of America ask that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and each state’s Department of Transportation mandate that tankers and tractor trailers:

1.    Have lights down the entire sides of the vehicle so that drivers can see the presence and the length of these vehicles at night

2.    Are not painted in dark colors

3.    Have regular inspections on the presence of working side lights and clean retroreflective tape – these could be part of the Weigh Station process, vehicle registration, etc.



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