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9 TRUCK ACCIDENT STATISTICS THAT WILL SURPRISE YOU

With over 15 million commercial trucks carrying more than 70% of all U.S. goods each year, it’s not surprising that truck crashes are a major source of injury and death in the country. The presence of so many big rigs on the roadways is one reason why the injury and death rates on the roads are so significant.

We work hard to make the roads safer, by instituting rules and regulations for large truck drivers and having a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  Our civil justice system allows victims of trucking crashes to seek compensation for their injuries, but by then the damage has been done.

When a large truck collides with a passenger car, it is usually the car and its occupants who get the worst of it.  The past decade has seen a 20% increase in the number of commercial truck accidents.  Here are 9 truck accident statistics that will surprise you…or not:

  1. Overall deaths down, trucking deaths up: Deaths due to crashes with large trucks increased in 2017 to their highest level in 29 according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. Fatalities from truck crashes grew even though the overall traffic fatality rate dropped during this period. 
  2. Not an insignificant number: 4,102 people died in large truck crashes in 2017, the last full year of statistics available.
  3. It’s always the small guy who pays the price: 17% of large truck crash deaths were truck occupants, 68% were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 14% percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists
  4. Bigger is better…for truckers: Many times the crash becomes much more serious because of the weight and size of the trucks. Since trucks often weight as much as 30 times as much as a passenger car, the weight disparity alone makes what might be a minor accident a major fatal or life-threatening crash. That’s why the truckers are not usually the victims in a truck vs car crash.
  5. Sliding is deadly: The height of big rigs poses a serious danger to cars. The government found that there are about 219 deaths each year from underride crashes involving large trucks. An underride crash is where a car slides under the back or side of a commercial tractor trailer, often sheering off its top. These crashes often result in catastrophic injuries or death for those in the passenger car.
  6. Don’t stop me now: A loaded tractor-trailer takes 20-40% more distance to stop than a passenger car. This gets even worse when the road is wet or if the truck’s brakes are not in top condition.
  7. Nap time: Although the causes of trucking crashes can be due to many things, trucker fatigue is a major factor is serious injury and deadly crashes.  Drivers are subject to physical and mental exhaustion, having to drive long distances in a sort time to meet deadlines. Truckers are allowed by federal hours-of-service regulations to drive up to 11 hours at a stretch (they can drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty, or a maximum of 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty, but no more than 60 hours on-duty over seven consecutive days).  Several studies, as well as many lawsuits against trucking companies, have shown that violations of these rules are common. A study in the Journal of Public Health Policy  found that almost three-fourths of the truck drivers in the study violate hours-of-service rules. About two-thirds of the drivers reported that they routinely drive or work more than the weekly maximum. That should concern us all, because when you have a fatigued or tired trucker on the road driving a truck that weighs as much as 75,000 pounds (the tractor alone weighs 9.5 tons without pulling a loaded trailer), a crash is often catastrophic.
  8. DUI isn’t a huge problem with truckers: Large truck drivers killed in fatal crashes rarely have unlawful levels of blood alcohol. This may be due to strict government regulations concerning drinking and driving or the need to effectively transport loads over long distances, which would not be consistent with being drunk. Only 4% of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2017 had blood alcohol levels over the legal limit of 0.08%, which is a decrease from 1982 when the level was 17%. To compare this to car crashes, 29% of drivers killed in car accidents in 2017 had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit (it was 51% in 1982).
  9. It’s safer out there on the weekend: While 25% of auto crash deaths occur on Saturday or Sunday, only 16% of deaths involving large trucks take place on the weekend. 

While we are dependent on trucks to transport our goods, they represent a serious threat to everyone’s safety.  Most truck drivers abide by the law and are professionally trained. Yet it only takes one inexperienced or poorly trained trucker, or someone in a hurry who has violated federal hours-of-service regulations to cause a catastrophic crash. 

Trucks are capable of enormous carnage on the roads.  Their sheer size and weight, combined with performance that is less nimble and slower to stop, presents a risk for anyone on the road. The statistics above bear out that large trucks remain a threat to the safety of everyone.  It is our hope that our legal system continues to effect a positive change not just by affording injured victims and the families who have lost ones their right to compensation, but also forces change within the industry to make trucking safer and less prone to catastrophic crashes.

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