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The Annual Toll of Fatal Truck Crashes

The total number of people in the United States killed in all types of motor vehicle accidents has decreased in recent years. But the number of people who died in crashes with commercial trucks has not.

This month the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its accounting of fatal traffic accidents for 2019 (“Preview of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2019”). It compares deaths in 2018 and 2019.  In 2018 36,835 people died in all manner of traffic accidents.  That number fell to 36,096 in 2019, a drop of 2%.

The report breaks down fatal crashes in numerous categories:

·         Passenger vehicles

·         Motorcyclists

·         Pedestrians

·         Commercial trucks

Commercial Truck Accidents Kill Thousands

Across the board – except for those who died in accidents involving tractor-trailers – the number of fatalities dropped compared to the year prior.

Fatal big-rig crashes took the lives of 5,006 people in 2018.  That number basically remained unchanged last year, when 5,005 drivers and passengers died in commercial truck accidents.

Incidentally, total fatal motor vehicle crashes in Missouri dropped 4.5% between 2018 and 2019, but the NHTSA report doesn’t break out semi-truck crash fatalities by state. However, the number of motorcyclists killed in traffic accidents and the number of pedestrians fatally struck by motor vehicles did increase in that span in the Show Me state.

The NHTSA report did not identify reasons why fatal trucking accidents remained unchanged while fatal car accidents fell. But it is not an isolated trend.

The same federal agency reported a 1% increase in commercial truck crash deaths between 2017 and 2018, and a 9% spike between 2016 and 2017.

Driver Error Leading Cause of Tractor-Trailer Crashes

In 2006 the NHTSA released a comprehensive look at the causes of fatal 18-wheeler accidents.  “The Large-Truck Crash Causation Study” is an in-depth look at why commercial trucks crash. As fatal trucking accidents still remain a dire public threat, one can assume their causes remain on the road today – perhaps in even more quantity.

According to this research, the number one cause of commercial truck accidents is driver error.

The study broke out these driver errors into several different examples, including:

·         Non-performance: such as when a driver fell asleep or had medical conditions impairing their ability to safely control their vehicle

·         Recognition: such as an inattentive truck driver or a distracted truck driver

·         Decision: such as speeding or traveling too fast for road or weather conditions, or following other vehicles dangerously close

·         Performance: such as when a trucker panics and overcompensates, needlessly losing control of their rig

Beyond the poor or irresponsible actions of the driver, researchers identified a number of associated factors in fatal truck crashes:

·         Dangerous, poorly maintained brakes

·         Drug use by driver

·         Fatigued trucker

·         Prescription and over-the-counter drug use

Based on hard data that show most types of fatal motor vehicle crashes on the decline, it appears most drivers are being more cautious.  Unfortunately, it also appears truck drivers and trucking companies are not doing the same.

If you were seriously hurt or had a family member die in a crash with a commercial truck, turn to a truck accident lawyer to pursue your legal right to just compensation for the careless actions of others.

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

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog October 12, 2020