Fatal Truck Crashes in 2019

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Just over 5,000 people died in commercial truck crashes in 2019. Seven out of every 10 were occupants in vehicles other than the commercial vehicle.

In May the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its newest report on fatal truck crashes. The comprehensive report is for the year 2019, as 2020 data is not finalized.  The fact that so many of those who perished in commercial truck accidents were in other vehicles is one of the most alarming in the report.

Victims of Fatal Commercial Truck Accidents

NHTSA found that 71% of the 2019 deaths in tractor-trailer accidents were drivers and passengers in other vehicles.  This percentage is not surprising given the large size and weight disparity between commercial semis and passenger cars and trucks.  A fully loaded tractor-trailer in Missouri, for example, can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds.

Another 11% of those who died across the country in fatal large truck wrecks in 2019 were pedestrians or bicyclists.  This percentage and the percentage of other vehicle occupants killed in crashes with semis have remained fairly constant since 2010.

Missouri truck crashes killed 135 people in 2019.  The year prior there were 129 Missouri truck crash deaths and 111 in 2017, mirroring a nationwide upward trend in fatal big-rig crashes in recent years.

Truckers Driving Drunk

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration drunk-driving threshold for commercial truck drivers is a .04 blood alcohol content level.  The drunk-driving threshold for non-commercial drivers in all states is a .08 BAC.

This more stringent level for truckers is understandable again given the size and weight of their vehicles.  A drunk truck driver who improperly responds to road, weather or traffic conditions and loses control of a fully loaded tractor-trailer can cause a catastrophic, multi-vehicle crash.

The NHTSA found that 2% of commercial truck drivers were legally drunk at the time of the fatal crash. And this is based on the lower .04 BAC measurement.

Truckers who drink and drive are a serious threat to others on the road. So are truck drivers under the influence of illegal drugs. That is one reason why the FMCSA developed its Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse for commercial truck drivers.  It is an online database of truck drivers who failed drug or alcohol tests, or refused to take them. It was rolled out January 1, 2020.

Failed Drug Tests by Truck Drivers

Last year, the database recorded nearly 56,000 alcohol or drug violations, and 82% of the violations were for a failed drug test.  If the current 2021 violation rate remains constant through the end of the year, truck driver alcohol and drug test violations will be even higher this year.

A significant percentage of truckers who crashed their rigs in 2019 had a history of wrecks.  Nearly a quarter of commercial truck drivers involved in a fatal accident (22.9%) in 2019 was found to have crashed their rigs in the previous five years.  According to the NHTSA report that’s a higher repeat crash rate than drivers of:

  • Passenger cars
  • Light trucks
  • Motorcycles

The NHTSA report also relays that about 20% of the 2019 truck drivers involved in a fatal wreck had at least one prior violation in the previous five years for another negligent act: speeding.

If you were seriously injured or lost a loved one in a crash caused by a commercial truck, turn to a personal injury attorney to conduct a thorough investigation to identify all those responsible.

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

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham.  Posted in Articles July 14, 2021

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