For more than three decades, the federal government has been trying to determine if water spray from vehicles traveling on wet roads poses a serious safety threat to other vehicles. Since a large truck or bus creates significantly more "splash" than a car or light truck, most of the focus has been on heavy duty vehicles.
The last comprehensive analysis, completed by NHTSA in 1994, essentially closed the doors on regulatory efforts -- at least for the time being. For one thing, the agency said it couldn't find any solid data to support the position that truck splash and spray was a major safety issue. A handful of studies dating back to 1959 linked splash and spray to less than 1% -- at most -- of highway crashes. However, researchers did note that data compiled in 1988, the last study done, did indicate that the problem may be greater than previously suspected.
In that 1994 review, NHTSA also concluded that there was no technology available that could "consistently and significantly" reduce splash and spray. At the time, trucking industry suppliers were continuing voluntary efforts to address the problem with various anti-splash devices and, inadvertently, with aerodynamic designs.
This new study, ordered by the Senate Appropriations Committee, is intended to update NHTSA research on splash and spray suppression. The public is invited to submit information on devices available or techniques in use. The agency has also asked for information on databases that might help quantify the extent to which heavy vehicle splash and spray contributed to highway crashes. The report is due to Congress by October 21, 1999.
Comments are due in writing June 21, 1999. The notice requesting comments was published in the May 7 Federal Register which can be accessed on the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov.