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Page Updated 12/23/2021

 Dangerous Loads: Examining Spikes in U.S. Truck Accident Deaths


Driving on a U.S. freeway, highway, tollway, or HOV lane usually means sharing the road with big rig semi-trucks and 18-wheeler long haulers. This can be nerve-wracking for green truckers, passenger car drivers and almost always delay for a motorcyclist if things go wrong.

Even if you are only in the passing lane, the vacuum you feel and backpressure force is enough to terrify someone. Unfortunately, truck accidents occur often, causing thousands of injuries and deaths every year across the United States.

The personal injury law firm at Ehline’s law offices fight to obtain truck accident victims fair compensation in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Sacramento, and throughout the state of California.

Most Things Move By Truck

Even as newer and faster modes of transportation are introduced each day, the trucking sector in the United States continues to expand. Truck transportation is regarded as one of the most efficient means to carry goods throughout the country, with over 70% of all products arriving by truck.

Trucking Dangers: Truck Accident Statistics

Here are some U.S. truck accident statistics that you should know.

Truck Accidents Account for Over 130,000 Injuries Each Year

The volume of truck accidents resulting in serious injury that occur each year is influenced by several factors, including rising consumer demands, financial pressures, driver distraction, and others. Large truck crashes typically result in severe injuries due to their tremendous weight and size. Approximately 130,000 people are harmed in similar accidents involving trucks every year.

More than 4000 Fatal Truck Crashes Occur Each Year

Truck accidents kill over 4,000 people annually, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The death toll in 2019 was 4,119. Compared to 2009, the number of truck accident fatalities has increased by 31%.

Leading Cause of Road Fatalities

Crashes involving large trucks remain one of the leading causes of traffic fatalities. A truck accident is much more likely to result in severe injury or death than motor vehicle crashes. According to the National Institute of Traffic and Highway Safety, occupants of the passenger vehicle hit by the truck experience approximately 73% of all truck accident injuries and fatalities.

Truckers Cause 55% of Truck Crashes.

A primary reason for large truck crashes in the United States is speeding. In 55% of all truck accidents, truck drivers themselves are a significant contributing factor. This implies that if your loved one has been fatally injured in a truck accident, you may be able to seek compensation for the damage done by the truck driver’s negligence.

To file a wrongful death claim against a negligent truck driver for the death of your loved one, contact Ehline Law Firm today. While a lawsuit cannot bring back your loved one or replace what you have lost, but it can provide much-needed financial support during your time of grieving.

Passenger Vehicle Involved In 97% of Fatalities.

Although not all car-truck collisions are the truck driver’s responsibility, the vehicle almost invariably suffers more damage in a collision with a truck. Trucks can be hazardous in a crash because they are substantially larger and weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger vehicles.

The simplest way to put this into context is to look at trucking and passenger car incidents statistics. In 2019, passenger vehicle occupants accounted for 67% of truck-related fatalities. When just two vehicles (the truck and a passenger vehicle) are involved in a collision, passenger vehicle occupants account for 97% of deaths. Data from previous years shows a comparable percentage.

47% of Truck Occupant Deaths Were Rollovers

Rollovers are one of the deadliest kinds of truck accidents involving passengers when compared to other forms of collisions. In 2019, 319 of the 679 truck occupants who died were killed in accidents in which their trucks rolled over. This was the case involving 47% of all fatalities, higher than the 39% and 38%, respectively, of SUV and pickup truck occupants killed in rollover accidents.

48% of Truck Drivers Had Seatbelt On

Seatbelt usage is among the most effective methods to lower the risk of death or injury in motor vehicle crashes. However, depending on the collision’s severity, truck and car occupants may suffer fatal injuries despite wearing their seatbelts. In 2019, 48% of all truck drivers killed in truck crashes were wearing their seatbelts.

Even though it’s true that 23% of fatally wounded truck drivers did not wear a seatbelt, that’s still a significant number. To minimize the probability of a deadly collision, seatbelt use is still essential for responsible driving.

0.4% of Truck/ Bus Crashes Involved Substance Abuse

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) performed an investigation called the Large Truck Causation Study to examine the basic causes of truck crashes. Contrary to popular belief, illegal substance misuse and alcohol were only responsible for 0.4% and 0.3% of all crashes, respectively.

Mechanical faults, weariness, and different tour routes were found to be the leading causes of accidents, according to the study. Additionally, aggressive driving by passenger vehicle drivers and truck drivers was found to be responsible for a further 5% of truck crashes.

Most Truck Occupant Fatalities With Two Large Trucks

306 heavy truck passengers were killed in collisions in 2019. Only 110 people, or 36%, died in single-vehicle crashes. The remaining 196, or 64%, died in a multiple-vehicle crash involving multiple heavy trucks. This shows that accidents involving numerous trucks are more deadly for truck drivers and occupants, which is among the reasons why trucking is such a risky career.

Most Truck Drivers Are Men

This may be one of several factors contributing to the high fatality rate among male delivery drivers. Most fatally injured drivers were men. This may be the case because out of 3.5 million truck drivers, only 20,000 are women. Almost 94.2% of truck drivers are men.

4% of Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes Involved Hazardous Cargo

It is essential to drive carefully and attentively when transporting hazardous items such as flammable materials. These are substances that readily ignite and burn. As a result, a trucker hauling hazardous cargo faces a significant chance of truck death in an accident because the goods are likely to combust upon impact.

Flammable substances, explosives, oxidizing compounds, radioactive chemicals, and combustible solids are among the other risky commodities that can detonate in a deadly collision with passenger vehicles.

Truck Accidents v Car Accidents

If you were wondering how car accident statistics compare to accidents involving a large truck, here are a few statistics that compare car accidents with truck accidents.

31% of Occupants in Passenger Vehicles Die From Front Impacts

Statistics have proved that approximately 25% of passenger vehicle occupants are killed when a large truck strikes them from the side. However, just 5% of people die when a truck strikes them from behind.

Another sort of collision is considered to be the most dangerous for passenger car occupants. This is when the front of the car collides with the back of the truck. In such cases, 22% of the occupants die.

50% of Passenger Dead Vehicle and Truck Drivers Wore Their Seatbelts

This means that approximately half the number of fatally injured drivers did not have their seatbelts on at the time of the collision or their status was unknown. More specifically, 30% of truck drivers who were fatally injured were not wearing their seatbelts.

In comparison, 43% of passenger vehicle drivers were unbelted. This indicates that car drivers tend to travel without the use of seatbelts than the drivers of trucks.

22% of Passenger Vehicle Occupants and 48% of Truck Occupants Died in Rollovers

Truck passengers die at a substantially higher rate than the occupants of other vehicles in the event of a rollover, owing to the trucks’ unique characteristics. Rollover accidents caused 45% of all SUV occupant deaths, similar to the 48% of truck occupant deaths that happened under identical conditions. In rollover incidents, the mortality rate for pickup truck occupants is slightly lower, at 41%.

More Truck Occupants Die in Single-Vehicle Collisions

Single-vehicle collisions and fatalities are far more prevalent in semi-truck crashes, as the vehicle’s design introduces several risks of its own. In contrast, passenger vehicle occupants died in 46% of the instances, with multiple-vehicle accidents causing more casualties.

Just 17% of fatal truck crashes featured only one vehicle, compared to 3% for cars. Both lorries and vehicles suffered the most common fatal crashes, accounting for 62% and 45%, respectively, of all traffic deaths.

U.S. Driver Demographics

Here are a few statistics regarding U.S. driver demographics:

  • In 2017, According to the American Trucking Associations, 36 million vehicles (excluding government and agricultural vehicles) were licensed and utilized for commercial purposes, accounting for 24% of all the trucks registered. 3.68 million heavy trucks (also known as Class eight trucks), such as dump trucks and truck tractors, were included.
  • All licensed trucks covered a total of 297.6 billion miles, with tractor-trailer trucks covering 181.5 billion miles.
  • In 2018, 3.5 million truck drivers were employed in the United States.
  • Two hundred seventy-six million vehicles traveled on American roads in the first quarter of 2019.
  • The year 2016 saw 88.3% of all 16-year-olds in the United States said they drove occasionally. The percentage varies depending on the age group. 91.5% of drivers between the ages 35 to 49 traveled on U.S. roads at least once a week, compared to 71.0% of drivers between the ages of 16 to 19 and 78.7% of those aged 75 and more.

The Top 10 Main Factors Increasing Truck Driver’s Risk

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the following are the top 10 reasons why many crashes occurred on U.S. roads with large trucks involved.

  • Problems with the brakes
  • Issues with roadways
  • Over-the-counter drug use that resulted in drowsiness
  • Drivers involved were unfamiliar with the roadway
  • Speeding
  • Poor surveillance
  • Traffic congestion that caused delays
  • The use of prescription drugs
  • Being required to stop in designated areas (for example, at pedestrian crossings)
  • Driver fatigue

Those who have been involved in personal injury crashes should contact Ehline Law Firm to file a personal injury claim against the driver at fault. If your loved one was involved in a fatal collision for any of the reasons mentioned, contact us to file a wrongful death lawsuit to obtain compensation for your damages.

What Causes Fatal Truck Accidents?

Some of the leading causes of fatal crashes include truck driver fatigue, distracted driving, speeding, and poor maintenance and training.

A Closer Look

The section below looks at some of these factors and how they cause traffic fatalities.

1. Driver Fatigue Often Causes Truck Drivers to Lose Focus

Truck drivers are typically compensated based on the number of miles they drive to transport a load. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers usually charge $0.28 to $0.40 per mile. Therefore, truck drivers must travel long distances to pay the bills.

Drivers are also required to adhere to rigorous delivery deadlines. To keep up with the demand, they often only get a few hours of sleep. Studies have shown that driver fatigue can lead to performance issues such as slower response rates, focus problems, and poor decision-making. Truck driver fatigue can also lead to an increased risk of truck collisions due to these performance reductions.

Furthermore, limiting operating hours reduces the percentage of weary drivers. Other dynamics, however, complicate the link between fatigue and collisions. Poor food choices at bus stations may not provide truck drivers with the nourishment they require to get through the long hours spent on the road.

Additionally, the physical work of loading and unloading cargo onto and off trailers contributes to driver fatigue.

According to the National Academies Press, all these factors lead to truck driver fatigue, which can cause a trucker to react slowly to obstacles on the road, make poor judgments, or even fall asleep behind the wheel.

While drowsy driving affects one out of every 25 people in the United States, it’s far more deadly when a trucker falls asleep behind the wheel. In the event of a crash, an 18-wheeler weighing 40 tons that are traveling 65 to 70 mph on a freeway can cause considerable damage to a 1.39-ton motor vehicle and the passengers within it.

2. Distractions While Driving

There is a crash risk whenever a driver’s attention is taken away from the road, even for a short time. In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that distracted driving caused approximately 10% of traffic fatalities and 15 percent injuries. Distracted driving is a concern on all roadways, and it isn’t good on city streets as it is on freeways. Anything that takes the focus away from the road is considered a distraction.

The truth is that driving long-distance driving may be tedious and monotonous. There’s not much amusement in rural locations, and it may even be challenging to get a decent radio signal. Truckers often text while driving and glance down at their phones to play music or a podcast to pass the time. Even if they have a radio signal, the mere act of switching stations diverts the driver’s attention away from the road that may result in fatal crashes.

3. Speeding

Due to the pressure of meeting strict deadlines, a truck driver may have to travel a lot faster than is safe for a truck of that size. If a driver fears losing their job if deliveries are not completed on time, they are more likely to drive over the speed limit to get there. This may entail speeding up to within inches of a modest passenger vehicle.

If you have ever glanced at your rearview mirror and seen a large truck approaching, you often do whatever it takes to avoid being hit. Moving out of the way usually entails passenger vehicles veering off the highway or into another lane, resulting in a collision.

4. Insufficient Training

Rules and regulations govern the number of hours of driver and safety training a truck driver must complete before driving a commercial vehicle. Often, drivers cover case studies to discuss how the most common crash occurred and the learnings.

This helps create driver awareness and prevent such car accidents from happening again. Even though such rules are in place, some drivers can begin working despite not meeting the minimum qualifications.

5. Weather Conditions

The truth is that poor weather conditions can occur at any time. Learning how to drive safely in adverse weather conditions, primarily while operating a large commercial vehicle, requires much practice and training.

In bad weather, a trucker must drive much slower than usual to avoid skidding and losing control of the vehicle. If truck drivers are not taught how to deal with bad weather, they put themselves and other drivers in danger.

6. Poor Maintenance and Servicing of Large Trucks

The trucking corporation is also obligated to check each truck before it is allowed to travel on the road to ensure that it is indeed roadworthy, but this is rarely done. Maintenance comes with a price, and it requires time that these businesses know might be better spent on making deliveries.

As a result, essential maintenance becomes less of a priority, and a vehicle can end up on the road without being deemed safe to drive.

Multiple parties may be held liable if a truck is not maintained correctly or has faulty components. The manufacturer of the defective component, the manufacturer of the truck, the trucking business, or the mechanic in charge of repair and maintenance of the truck can be held accountable when an accident occurs. An experienced attorney from Ehline Law Firm can help you determine who was at fault for the death of your loved one following a truck accident.

7. The Incorrect Loading of Cargo

Each cargo load must stay within a specific size, weight, height, length, and width restrictions. If the vehicle is transporting hazardous goods, stringent rules must be followed even more.

Even so, mistakes do happen, and a load might render a truck overly heavy or prone to tipping. A catastrophic disaster can occur if cargo falls onto the road. Hazardous chemicals may also burst into flames or expose pedestrians and passengers to toxic gases.

Highway Safety in the U.S.

While the above factors deal with truck fatalities in general, to assess the spike in highway safety violations and truck and bus crashes effectively, it is essential to look at the specific conditions in the United States.

The Correlation Between Lower Gas Prices, Low Unemployment Rates, and Truck Accidents

When you enter lower values for petrol prices and unemployment rates into the equation, there seems to be a predictable increase in the number of fatal crashes. To put it another way, the changes we’re seeing now are predictable responses to changes in macroeconomic circumstances. There has been a predictable reaction to lower gas costs and more employed individuals on U.S. roads.

Distracted Driving and Higher Fatality Rates

Although U.S. drivers aren’t any more likely to practice distracted driving than drivers in other countries, truck fatalities in those countries have been falling for the last 45 years and continue to fall. In 1970, the United States suffered 52,000 deaths, relative to 102,000 in 16 other countries with a combined population 70% bigger than the United States.

The number of deaths in the U.S. had dropped to 33,500 in 2012, thanks to better healthcare, disaster response, and automotive technology. In comparison, the total number of people in those same 16 countries was only 24,500.

To put it another way, since 1970, the United States has gone from being at the front of the pack in terms of highway safety to be at the back. We’ve essentially remained stationary in the field of traffic safety for the past 45 years while other countries have raced ahead.

How the U.S. Compares to Other Countries

Several of these countries have addressed the problematic, deeply rooted cultural, economic, and engineering challenges that must be addressed to achieve long-term traffic fatality decreases. As a result, there are currently approximately three to four times higher traffic fatality rates than some of the best-performing nations, such as Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

The way the U.S. builds cities and the constructed roadways appear to be the source of much of the discrepancy. People drive more in the United States than in any other industrialized nation, which helps to explain the increased traffic mortality statistics. Even after accounting for car miles driven, death rates remain higher.

What Do Other Countries Do Differently?

Other countries practice the following things that help them lower the number of tractor-trailer crashes that occur on their roads:

  • They have designed their streets to accommodate more vulnerable drivers like motorcyclists
  • Laws and regulations have been implemented to accommodate these vulnerable drivers
  • People in these countries tend to live more compactly

The Netherlands’ traffic safety history is fascinating. In 1970, the Netherlands had a lower traffic mortality rate than the United States.

On Dutch roads, approximately 3,200 people lost their lives that year. Many people were outraged, and hundreds of people flocked to the streets to protest, demanding that the authorities “Stop Child Murder.” Since then, the Dutch government has worked tirelessly to improve traffic safety.

Signs of Improvement in the Number of Traffic Deaths in the United States

While the country may not be performing well concerning crashes involving trucks, there are isolated cases where cities have shown much improvement.

Washington, DC

An excellent example of an isolated improvement case in the number of road accident-related deaths is in Washington, DC. Two decades ago, when it comes to traffic safety, D.C. was in the mid-range compared to other U.S. cities. It is now one of the safest cities in the United States in terms of personal injury crashes and fatalities.

One explanation for this improvement is that it has begun to safeguard road users who require the most security. Secured on-street bicycle lanes parallel to the sidewalk and isolated from heavy traffic by some form of barrier is one approach implemented in various parts of the city, drawing inspiration from the Dutch.

Other U.S. Cities

Cycling has grown in popularity in the locations where these tactics have been successfully applied, including cities like Portland, New York City, Cambridge, Washington DC, and Seattle. Traffic mortality rates have also declined considerably faster in these cities than in other cities.

Between 2000 and 2012, the number of individuals riding to work in D.C. quadrupled, while the rate of traffic fatalities dropped from nine people per 100,000 to three people per 100,000. More research is necessary, but one theory is that segregated bike lanes minimize the area dedicated to cars, slowing traffic and lowering crash risk.

Preventing Fatalities in Large Truck Accidents

Because there are several contributing factors, there are several methods for prevention that both truckers and motorists need to know.

Here are a few methods for reducing the number of significant truck accidents in the U.S.:

  • Truckers should be required to participate in simulated rollover training drills that enable them to witness these accidents and learn from a rollover crisis without risking their lives
  • Accident prevention methods must be included in training sessions
  • Truck inspections should be mandatory, and companies should be encouraged to enlist the help of a state truck inspector regularly to ensure that their vehicles are safe enough to be on the road.
  • Drivers should be educated on what to do at the crash scene or crash site to prevent fatalities.
  • Trucking companies should adjust their schedules to allow drivers to get enough sleep.
  • Detailed schedules should be put in place which accommodate breaks for truckers.
  • Transportation companies can switch to paying truckers a monthly salary rather than a delivery basis.
  • Hands-free kits can be used to prevent distracted driving
  • Dedicated lanes can be implemented for trucks, as they are for cyclists
  • Drivers should always remain alert and attentive when they are behind the wheel

If at least one person implements these preventative measures in their business, there is sure to be a decline in the number of accidents involving a large truck. As a result, the fatality rate is sure to increase too.

Wrongful Death Cases

Thousands die annually in crashes involving large trucks, which is an awful reality. Tractor-trailer collisions are ten times more likely to result in death than collisions with other vehicles.

If your family member has died in a truck crash, you should consider filing a wrongful death case. Even though no sum of money can bring your loved one back, a wrongful death lawsuit is intended to provide compensation to the relatives of somebody who died too soon as a result of someone else’s wrongdoing.

When a loved one is killed in a fatal crash, you need an expert truck accident lawyer who can hold the firm accountable. Your attorney can seek the compensation you and your family need to move forward.

In your time of grieving, you should never have to worry about finances or how you will cover the debts your loved one left behind. Medical expenses related to the accident still need paying, and funeral costs must also be taken care of and other fees that the crash involved. You also deserve compensation for the pain and suffering you endured due to someone else’s negligence.

Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help

Experienced attorneys at Ehline Law Firm can help you prepare your wrongful death claim, determining a reasonable amount that you can expect to receive. The team can also help you to gather evidence to support your claim and help you deal with insurance companies who may attempt to settle the case too soon by offering unreasonably small settlement offers.

Why Choose Us for Your Claim

  • The attorneys at Ehline Law Firm are committed to providing service of the highest standard because they understand how hard dealing with a personal injury or the death of a loved one can be
  • You can obtain the highest possible compensation when choosing an experienced attorney from Ehline Law Firm.
  • The firm is not intimidated by insurance companies or large trucking corporations.
  • Several offices across the country, so you never have to travel far to receive sound legal advice.
  • The team operates on a contingency fee basis, so you do not have to pay legal fees upfront.

Those who have had a loved one lose their life in a truck accident that was not their fault should contact an experienced attorney from Ehline Law Firm to help you compile supporting evidence for your claim.

Suppose you were in a truck accident caused by a negligent driver and incurred personal harm. As a result, you might be eligible to obtain compensation for your losses.

An experienced personal injury lawyer from Ehline Law Firm can assist you in claiming compensation for medical expenses, missed income, and suffering.

Contact Ehline Law Firm Today!

We know how to make a claim, and we can negotiate with the insurance company. Our very best truck accident lawyer can take them to court to ensure you get compensated.

If the truck driver broke road rules or hour restrictions, or if the truck firm was at fault for failing to maintain the vehicle, we may pursue a lawsuit against the firm—call (833) LETS-SUE.

Ehline Law Firm - Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC
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