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NHTSA Finds Trucker Deaths Rising Even As Highway Deaths In General Are Falling

By December 12, 2012Highway Safety

As a Missouri semi truck accident attorney, I know that the truck drivers themselves are unlikely to be the ones who die in a serious trucking accident. Because a tractor-trailer is much heavier than a passenger car or SUV, it’s likely that the trucker will walk away from a crash, even when the people in the other vehicle suffered serious injuries. So I was very interested to see a Dec. 12 report in Truckinginfo saying that the federal government has spotted an upward trend in truck occupant deaths. Overall highway fatalities were down by 1.9 percent from 2010 to 2011. This is a continuation of a generally positive trend toward fewer deaths on U.S. highways, and represents a drop of 26 percent since 2005. However, the same report says fatalities increased by 20 percent among people inside large commercial trucks, spurring the DOT to do further research into truck crashes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration releases accident statistics for each year. Its report for 2011, issued in December of 2012, had good news: the overall number of traffic deaths in 2011 was the lowest since 1949. The deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled—a more accurate look, since far fewer people were on the road in 1949—hit a historic low. However, occupants (drivers and passengers) of large trucks saw a 20% increase in deaths, from 530 deaths in 2010 to 635 in 2011. They also saw a 15 percent increase in non-fatal injuries during the same time period. Interestingly, however, the number of people in other vehicles who were killed in a large truck crash fell slightly, by 3.6 percent. The NHTSA is working with the FMCSA, the regulator of interstate trucking and busing, to determine what might have caused the increase.
Because I’ve been working as a St. Louis tractor-trailer accident lawyer for a long time, I know that people in other vehicles are routinely 75 to 80 percent of those killed in truck crashes. In fact, the NHTSA says there’s a general upward trend in truck accident deaths, which defies the downward trend in overall highway deaths. Because this problem seems to be specific to large trucks, I wonder whether it could have been influenced by trucking regulations. Truck drivers and trucking companies are subject to numerous special safety rules, including limitations on hours of driving, drug and alcohol testing and equipment safety inspections. Anything softening those rules or permitting new ways to get around them could have a profound influence on trucker safety—and the safety of anyone who happens to be near the truckers.
At Carey, Danis & Lowe, we focus our practice on accidents involving large commercial trucks. Our southern Illinois 18-wheeler accident attorneys represent families seeking to hold a trucking company and driver liable for injuries or deaths caused by serious lapses in safety. Unfortunately, this is more common than many drivers might think, because trucking companies have a financial incentive to break safety rules. They make more money when they pressure drivers to drive under unsafe conditions, or can employ unqualified drivers for lower wages. The result is that unsafe ten-ton trucks are sharing the roads that unsuspecting ordinary drivers use every day. When this results in a tragedy, victims can claim financial compensation for the personal, emotional and financial costs caused by the crash.

If your family has been hurt by a trucking accident that was caused by someone else’s bad decisions, you should call Carey, Danis & Lowe to discuss how we can help. For a free consultation, send us a message online or call toll-free at 1-877-678-3400.
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