When passenger cars and larger trucks, like big-rig tractor-trailers, are involved in accidents on our nation’s highways, the occupants of automobiles are much more likely to bear the brunt of the harm caused by these accidents. The number of people who died in large truck crashes was almost higher by 1/3 in 2018 than in 2009, when it was the lowest number since federal agencies started collecting fatal accident data in 1975. The most recent year where data has been collected and analyzed is 2018.
Most fatal injuries in large truck accidents are sustained by the occupants of passenger vehicles. Drivers and passengers in normal-sized automobiles are at a huge disadvantage when involved in any type of collision with a large truck and much more vulnerable to serious and fatal injuries. Tractor-trailer rigs are often twenty to thirty times heavier than passenger cars with greater ground clearance. Thus, they present a huge burst of force at high speeds that have the potential to override smaller vehicles and cause serious accidents with catastrophic injuries.
The ability of large tractor-trailer rigs to brake at high speeds or sudden intervals is a major factor in their capacity to avoid serious accidents. Loaded tractor-trailers may take twenty to forty percent farther than passenger cars to stop, and this distinction is even greater on wet and slippery roads or with poorly maintained brakes.
Truck driver fatigue is also a common accident risk although drivers of larger trucks are allowed to drive up to 11 hours by federal law. It is common industry, if not public, knowledge that countless drivers violate these regulations and work longer than legally allowed.
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
Eleven percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2018 occurred in large truck crashes. A total of 4,136 people died in large truck accidents in 2018. This number of deaths was 31 percent higher in 2018 than in 2009 when it was the lowest since the collection of fatal accident data began in 1975. Among vehicle occupants killed in large truck accidents, both the rate of passenger vehicle occupant deaths per truck mile traveled and the rate of large truck occupant deaths per truck mile traveled have declined significantly since 1975.
The number of truck occupants who died was 51 percent higher than in 2009. Of the 4,136 people who died in large truck accidents in 2018:
*Seventy-four (74) percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2018 were in crashes involving tractor-trailers and 27 percent were in crashes involving single-unit trucks. Some crashes involved both a tractor-trailer and a single-unit truck.
*Ninety-six (96) percent of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck in 2018 were occupants of the passenger vehicles.
*Sixty-two (62) percent of large truck occupants killed in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2018 occurred in collisions involving another large truck.
*Twelve percent (12) of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths and 22 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2018 occurred in crashes with large trucks.
*Fifty-two (52) percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2018 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, 33 percent occurred on interstates and freeways, and 14 percent occurred on minor roads.
*Fifty percent (50) of large truck crash deaths in 2018 occurred from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., compared with 30 percent of crash deaths not involving large trucks.
*Sixteen (16) percent of large truck crash deaths in 2018 occurred on Saturday and Sunday, compared with 34 percent of crash deaths not involving large trucks.
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