The number of highway deaths in the U.S. climbed in 2012 to 33,561 – an increase of 1,082 from 2011 – according to preliminary data released recently by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The same data also showed that the number of deaths to occupants in large trucks increased substantially for the third consecutive year, up 8.9 percent in 2012. According to the NHTSA data, 697 large truck occupant fatalities occurred in 2012. But that rise was not as sharp as the 20-percent escalation that occurred in 2011, according to NHTSA, cautioning that the total number of highway fatalities remains at a historic low despite the upward trend. The last time the total number of highway deaths jumped was in 2005.
NHTSA reported that Americans drove roughly the same number of miles in 2012 as they did in 2011, so an increase in highway travel could not be to blame for the rise. Some commercial truck industry groups say that NHTSA’s figures for large trucks are misleading because they include non-freight hauling trucks smaller than tractor trailers, which usually have higher crash rates than semis and other large commercial trucks. Despite any objections to terminology, however, the most current data released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), also shows an upward trend in the number of large commercial truck and bus crashes, as well as the number of people killed and injured in those crashes.
FMCSA data show that commercial truck and bus crashes have risen steadily since 2009, as have the number of deaths and injuries resulting from those crashes. According to FMCSA records, in 2010, the number of deaths in large truck and bus crashes was 3,686 and 278 respectively, up from 3,380 and 254 in 2009. In 2011, 3,757 people were killed in large truck crashes and 283 in bus crashes. In 2012, 3,876 people were killed in commercial truck crashes and 263 people were killed in bus crashes. The number of injuries resulting from truck and bus crashes followed the same trend in those years.
In November, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) representatives called for an audit of the FMCSA after its investigations of two large truck crashes and two commercial bus crashes revealed that the agency knew that serious safety issued plagued the operators, but failed to keep them off the road. “Our investigators found that in many cases, the poor performing company was on FMCSA’s radar for violations, but was allowed to continue operating and was not scrutinized closely until they had deadly crashes,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman.
Julia Beasley, Kendall Dunson, Ben Baker, Chris Glover and Rick Morrison, lawyers in our firm’s Personal Injury/Products Liability Section, focus on personal injury and product liability cases involving 18-wheelers, heavy trucks and buses. If you have a question about these kinds of cases, one of these lawyers will be happy to help. They can be contacted at 800-898-2034 or by email at Julia.Beasley@beasleyallen.com; Kendall.Dunson@beasleyallen.com; Ben.Baker@beasleyallen.com; Chris.Glover@beasleyallen.com or Rick.Morrison@beasleyallen.com.
Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Commercial Motor Vehicle Facts – March 2013; Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Motor Carrier Safety Progress Report (as of June 30, 2013); Commercial Carrier Journal
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