About 1 in 10 highway deaths occurs in a crash involving a large truck.
Most deaths in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants. The main problem is the vulnerability of people traveling in smaller vehicles. Trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger cars and are taller with greater ground clearance, which can result in smaller vehicles underriding trucks in crashes.
Truck braking capability can be a factor in truck crashes. Loaded tractor-trailers take 20-40 percent farther than cars to stop, and the discrepancy is greater on wet and slippery roads or with poorly maintained brakes. Truck driver fatigue also is a known crash risk. Drivers of large trucks are allowed by federal hours-of-service regulations to drive up to 11 hours at a stretch and up to 77 hours over a seven-day period. Surveys indicate that many drivers violate the regulations and work longer than permitted.
McCartt, A.T.; Hellinga L.A.; and Solomon, M.G. 2008. Work schedules of long-distance truck drivers before and after 2004 hours-of-service rule change. Traffic Injury Prevention 9:201-10.
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
A total of 3,373 people died in large truck crashes in 2011. Sixteen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 66 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 16 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. The number of people who died in large truck crashes was 7 percent higher in 2011 than in 2009, when it was lower than at any year since the collection of fatal crash data began in 1975. The number of truck occupants who died was 23 percent higher than in 2009. Since 1979, when deaths in large truck crashes were at an all time high, there has been a greater percentage decline among occupants of large trucks (60 percent) than among occupants of passenger vehicles (47 percent).
Ninety-eight percent of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck in 2011 were occupants of the passenger vehicles.
Ten percent of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2011 occurred in large truck crashes.
Seventy-six percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2011 were in crashes involving tractor-trailers and 25 percent were in crashes involving single-unit trucks.
Sixty-four percent of large truck occupants killed in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2011 occurred in collisions involving another large truck.
Ten percent of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths and 22 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2011 occurred in crashes with large trucks.
Among vehicle occupants killed in large truck crashes, 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 substantially since 1975.
Federal Highway Administration. 2012. Highway statistics, 2010. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation.
Fifty-nine percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2011 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, 31 percent occurred on interstates and freeways, and 9 percent occurred on minor roads.
Forty-nine percent of large truck crash deaths in 2011 occurred from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., compared with 31 percent of crash deaths not involving large trucks.
Fifteen percent of large truck crash deaths in 2011 occurred on Saturday and Sunday, compared with 37 percent of crash deaths not involving large trucks.
Fifty-two percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2011 occurred in crashes in which their vehicles rolled over. This was lower than the percentage of SUV occupant deaths (55 percent) that occurred in rollover crashes and higher than the percentage of occupant deaths in pickups (46 percent) and cars (29 percent) involving rollovers.
Sixty percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2011 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, compared with 52 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths.
Eighteen percent of large trucks in fatal crashes in 2011 were involved in single-vehicle crashes; in contrast, 41 percent of passenger vehicles in fatal crashes were involved in single-vehicle crashes.
Forty-three percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2011 were using safety belts, compared with 45 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers. Belt use was unknown for 23 percent of fatally injured large truck drivers, compared with 7 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers.
One quarter of passenger vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes with a large truck in 2011 were in head-on crashes with the truck. Fourteen percent involved the front of the passenger vehicle striking the rear of the large truck.
In contrast with passenger vehicle drivers, large truck drivers killed in fatal crashes rarely have high blood alcohol concentrations (BACs). Truck drivers are subject to strict government regulations concerning drinking and driving. Two percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2011 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, down from 17 percent in 1982. For comparison, 33 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2011 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, down from 51 percent in 1982.
©1996-2016, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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