Why Do Fatal Truck Crashes Continue to Increase?

truck side mirror pixlr

New data show that, while overall deaths from traffic accidents continue to decline, fatal commercial trucking accidents continue to increase.  Yet the trucking industry puts up roadblocks over proposed measures to increase commercial trucking safety.

In October 2019, the federal government reported the number people killed in motor vehicle crashes dropped 2.4% from 2018 to 2017 – 913 fewer deaths. This month, the federal government published a preliminary approximation of fatalities for 2019 (“Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2019”), which projects another 1.2% overall drop in traffic accident deaths.

But in both years, according to federal statistics, the number of people killed in large truck crashes rose.

5,000 People Killed in Commercial Truck Crashes

In March the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its accounting of catastrophic commercial truck crashes for 2018 (“Traffic Safety Facts – Large Trucks”).  Deaths in commercial truck crashes rose 1 percent between 2017 and 2018. Nearly 5,000 people were killed that year in crashes with 18-wheelers.

A similar NHTSA report issued last year revealed the number of people killed in big rig accidents jumped an astounding 9% between 2016 and 2017.

There is one constant in all of this. Between 2009 and 2018, the NHTSA reports, the people killed in tractor-trailer collisions overwhelmingly were occupants in other vehicles. Over those 10 years, more than 70% of those who died were in other cars.

This is to be expected, as fully loaded commercial trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds.  With such a weight disparity, when a big rig collides with a passenger vehicle, the outcome is often catastrophic for those in smaller, lighter cars and SUVs.

Fatal Truck Accidents Involving Multiple Vehicles

And in 2018 most commercial tractor-trailers involved in fatal wrecks included a number of vehicles.  About eight out of every 10 fatal large truck crashes that year involved multiple vehicles.

When a fatigued truck driver is not paying attention to stopped traffic ahead or unexpectedly swerves in congested traffic, the heavy rig can pinball smaller vehicles with deadly consequences for many people.

The NHTSA also reports that truck drivers in fatal crashes have spotty driving records prior to a fatal accident.  In 2018:

·         21% of commercial truckers in deadly accidents had previous crashes

·         About the same percentage were ticketed for speeding prior to the accident

·         9% of truck drivers involved in a fatal crash previously had their license suspended or revoked

All of which is why commercial truck drivers and commercial trucking companies should always get behind precautions to keep others safe. But they don’t.

In the last few years, the federal government implemented tighter regulations to keep tired truck drivers off the road.  Hours of Service rules outline how many hours a week and day a trucker can drive, and also mandates rest periods.

The trucking industry fought the tougher HOS rules.  And now the federal government in response just this month watered them down. Another example of commercial trucking putting profits ahead of other people’s lives.

If you were seriously injured or if a family member was killed in a crash with a commercial tractor-trailer, speak with a truck accident attorney about bringing those responsible to account.

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 15, 2020


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