Is the Number of Semi-Truck Accidents Going Down?

Americans in general, and Oregonians in particular, are blessed to live in a time filled with fascinating scientific advancements and technological marvels that our ancestors could not have imagined. In fact, with smartphones, GPS, Fitbits, cloning, stealth jets, medical break-throughs, text messaging, and the completion of the human genome project, our current society would probably look like a science fiction movie to generations of the past. Plus, we are now entering an era in which cars and semi-trucks can drive themselves. While innovation and technology often improve safety, the opposite can sometimes be true. For example, texting a friend overseas through a smartphone application is an amazing convenience, but can be a dangerous distraction if done while driving. Over the years, a number of technologies, innovations, and regulations have been implemented to address safety on the roadways. In this article, we will consider whether the number of semi-truck accidents is going down in Oregon and the United States.

Fatalities in Large Truck Crashes

It should come as no surprise to anyone that most deaths that occur from semi-truck crashes involve drivers and passengers in passenger vehicles. After all, a semi-truck usually weighs 20 or 30 times more than the passenger vehicle. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute, has examined large truck crashes, which involved deaths between 1975 and 2015, and provides readers with some interesting trends. Following are a few interesting observations on the data:

  • Deaths from large truck crashes peaked in 1979 when 6,428 people died (4,226 were passenger vehicle occupants; 1,372 were truck occupants; and 830 were motorcyclists, pedestrians, or bicyclists).
  • Deaths from large truck crashes bottomed out in 2009 when 3,115 people died (2,223 passenger vehicle occupants; 449 truck occupants; and 443 were motorcyclists, pedestrians, or bicyclists).
  • Deaths have increased each year since 2011.
  • In 2015, deaths from large truck crashes totaled 3,809 (2,646 passenger vehicle occupants; 600 truck occupants; and 563 were motorcyclists, pedestrians, or bicyclists).
  • The 2015 death toll was 22% higher than in 2009.
  • Surprisingly to many, of the deadly crashes in 2015, only 30% occurred on freeways and interstates.

Crashes in Oregon

Like the United States in general, Oregon has exhibited a somewhat troubling trend. The following data points include statistics from all types of crashes, including semi-trucks:

  • In 2013, Oregon had 313 fatalities from all types of crashes. That number has increased each year since 2013, with 495 fatalities in 2016.
  • Fatalities involving large trucks totaled 28 in 2012 and increased to 53 in 2016.

Can Technology and Regulation Help?

Certainly, safety has improved since the 1970s, and safety remains much improved since that time. However, there has been a slight regression, which must be watched carefully. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concludes that 94% of all serious crashes on the roadways involve poor choices by drivers. Thus, driver assistance technologies, such as those that provide warnings about risks, and help brake and steer vehicles when appropriate, should help improve driver safety. Similarly, many trucking regulations, such as hours of service regulations, are aimed at keeping drivers alert and safe. Hopefully, we will soon start to see improvements reflected in semi-truck accident statistics.

Call an Attorney

At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we are always happy to see innovation that protects the public. Unfortunately, even with technological advancements, human error can cause horrific consequences. Perhaps a truck driver did not follow hours of service regulations and negligently caused an accident due to fatigue. Perhaps a trucking company did not follow the required maintenance procedures, and the driver could not brake adequately. These and hundreds of other circumstances can lead to the death or injury of an innocent victim. To protect all of society, it is important to hold wrongdoers accountable. If you have questions or need help investigating an accident, please contact us.


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