Federal data revealed that 2018 was one of the deadliest years for large truck drivers across the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that more large truck drivers were involved in fatal accidents in 2018 than any year since 1988, a 30-year span. While large trucks experienced one of the deadliest years on record, overall traffic fatalities decreased. There are several factors that could account for the uptick in large truck related fatalities, including driver fatigue and substance abuse. Overall, being familiar with the causes of truck accidents as well as safety tips could help reduce the likelihood of being involved in a fatal truck accident.
Details of the NHTSA Report
The NHTSA report reveals that nearly 885 large truck drivers were involved in a fatal accident in 2018. The number of recorded large truck driver fatalities is 6 percent lower than the number recorded in 1988, where over 910 large truck fatalities were recorded.
The number of individuals involved in an automobile accident with a large truck significantly increased in 2018 when compared to the previous year. In 2018, the NHTSA found that nearly 625,000 people across the country were involved in a large truck accident, almost 70,000 more compared to the previous year. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 11 percent of overall traffic related fatalities involved large truck collisions. Among the large truck crashes, nearly 75 percent of crash-related deaths involved a tractor trailer rather than a single unit vehicle.
Despite truck-related fatalities increasing in 2018, automobile and roadway deaths overall decreased in 2018 by nearly 2.5 percent compared to the previous year. This includes a decrease in deaths related to speeding and passenger occupant fatalities, which fell by 5.7 and 5.2 percent, respectively. The decreases in overall traffic related deaths occurred even though individuals drove more on U.S. roadways in 2018 than they did in 2017.
Causes of Truck Accidents
“There are several reasons why traffic fatalities related to large trucks increased despite a decrease in overall traffic related fatalities,” said lawyer Joe Kopfler of Kopfler & Hermann, Attorneys at Law. “The decrease in overall fatalities could be in part attributed to new safety features being added to many passenger vehicles. However, many of these features have yet to be adapted to large trucks.”
Additionally, there are multiple factors that could make large trucks more dangerous than other vehicles. Large trucks may have several blind spots where drivers experience difficulty seeing or are unable to detect smaller vehicles. Similarly, because a large truck can weigh over 20 times the average weight of a passenger car, it may take longer for trucks to stop compared to other vehicles. Depending on the load size and weight of the vehicle, a large truck may need as much as 40 percent more space than a passenger car to come to a complete stop. The length required may also increase depending on the conditions of the road.
Driver Fatigue, Drug Use, and Alcohol Consumption Among Large Truck Drivers
Driving schedules and long shifts may contribute to driver fatigue which could increase the likelihood of an accident occurring. A study from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that nearly 15 percent of trucker accidents involved driver fatigue in 2007. Additionally, the prevalence of alcohol use may also contribute to the occurrence of large truck accidents across the country. A study published by the national institutes of health found that around 19 percent of truck drivers engaged in binge drinking at some point on the job. Similarly, the study found that 9.4 percent of drivers engage in daily alcohol consumption. Additionally, many truckers may abuse other substances, including amphetamines, cocaine, and other illegal drugs, in an attempt to increase performance or stay awake on the road.
Trucker Safety Tips
There are several proactive safety measures that truckers could take to help proactively reduce the likelihood of a fatal accident occurring. Wearing your seatbelt, following speed limits, and avoiding distractions such as cell phones or other devices may help reduce the likelihood of a fatality while on the road. Additionally, drivers could help maintain a safe and proper distance from other vehicles or hazards by adjusting driving to roadway conditions. This include slowing down or increasing the distance between other vehicles in cases of sharp turns, heavy rain, or other conditions.