What Causes a Fatal Commercial Truck Crash?

The most recent federal data show that while large commercial trucks account for just 5% of all vehicles on the road, they are involved in 9% of the nation’s fatal crashes. They also are involved in 9% of fatal motor vehicle crashes in Missouri.

In April the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration released its report on “Large Trucks” for 2020, the most recent year with finalized commercial truck crash data. The report provides some insights into the causes of catastrophic truck crashes.

Victims of Fatal Commercial Truck Crashes

Nearly 5,000 people died in serious truck accidents in 2020. Making that number even more alarming is that 71% of those killed were occupants of other vehicles. Another 13% who died in commercial truck crashes were pedestrians and bicyclists.

While the number of people killed in commercial truck accidents in 2020 was slightly lower than in 2019, it has increased significantly over the last 10 years.  Between 2011 and 2020, the number of those killed in large truck crashes has risen nearly 30%.

What did not change over that time is the percentage of people killed in truck crashes who were in other vehicles.  It has hovered above 70% every year.  In 2020, 80% of those who died in a Missouri commercial truck crash were bikers, walkers or occupants in other vehicles.

One reason could be that, according to NHTSA, commercial trucks are often involved in catastrophic multi-vehicle crashes. Eight out of every 10 rigs in fatal commercial truck crashes in 2020 were in crashes that included several vehicles.

Distracted truck drivers have the potential to cause such catastrophic wrecks.  A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds.  These trucks require a significant distance to stop, especially traveling at highway speeds.

Truck drivers on their cell phones, reaching for food or distracted for other reasons may not be paying adequate attention to the road ahead. If they fail to brake for stopped traffic ahead, serious multi-vehicle crashes likely occur.

Truck drivers who are speeding also may cause fatal crashes involving numerous other vehicles.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently proposed speed limiters for large commercial trucks, drawing criticism from the trucking industry.

Risky Driving History of Commercial Truck Drivers in Fatal Crashes

Truck drivers involved in fatal truck crashes in 2020 often were cited for risky driving in the past.  These dangerous truck driver actions included:

  • DWI convictions
  • Speeding convictions
  • Driving with a suspended or revoked license

More than 20% of commercial truck drivers in fatal crashes that year were involved in previous truck accidents – a higher percentage than passenger car drivers and motorcyclists.  And almost 20% previously were found guilty of speeding.

When commercial truck drivers are careless and cause fatal crashes, innocent victims overwhelming suffer the most.  A catastrophic multi-vehicle accident can bring life-altering consequences for those critically injured and for the families of those who die.

If you were seriously hurt or lost a loved one in a crash caused by a commercial truck, speak to a personal injury lawyer about your legal rights to just compensation from all responsible parties.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Blog May 27, 2020


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