This article explores recent statistics about large truck crashes in the United States.  A large truck, for purposes of this article, is any medium or heavy truck, excluding buses and motor homes, with gross vehicle weight (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds. Just after this article was published on January 15, 2020, a horrific accident occurred on Interstate 81 southbound, near Exit 340, in which three people were killed. The Virginia State Police is reporting that in the January 15th accident, a tractor trailer traveling northbound on I-81 left the road, traveled through the median, and struck several vehicles head-on, including another tractor trailer.  A number of local residents were involved in this accident. These accidents are definitely a growing epidemic as the statistics below indicate.  Stay safe out there!

Tractor trailer truck on an interstate

1. In 2017, deaths from large trucks reached their highest level in 29 years.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, deaths from large truck crashes reached their highest level in 29 years according to the 2017 data.  Even though overall fatalities in all traffic crashes declined, fatalities from crashes involving big trucks is on the rise.

The largest increase in fatalities were in crashes with trucks weighing 10,000 to 14,000 pounds, including dual rear-wheel pickup trucks.  With the United States’ freight transportation at an all-time high, it is not surprising that the number of crashes and injuries have risen.

A growing factor in the overall traffic death statistics is distracted driving, which includes distractions of both the drivers of cars as well as drivers of large trucks.

Large highway accident involving a tractor trailer truck

2.  In 2017, deaths from accidents with large trucks occurred mostly in occupants of other vehicles.  In fact,

— 72% were occupants of other vehicles

— 18% were occupants of large trucks

— 10% were pedestrians or bicyclists

3.  In 2017, large trucks were more likely to be involved in fatal multiple-vehicle crashes than passenger vehicles.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of all multiple vehicle collisions involving large trucks, 80% led to fatalities.  For passenger vehicles, however, of all crashes only 62% led to fatalities.  The disparity in these numbers is obviously related to the weight and size of the large trucks.

4.  In Virginia, 8.7% of all fatal crashes involved large trucks.  But in West Virginia, 11.8% involved large trucks.

The mid-west leads the nation in percentages of large trucks involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes.  Weather and roadway conditions, including everything from wide open spans to curvy roads, are said to contribute to these crashes.

5.  Despite better inspections and more oversight, truck crashes are killing more people.

Since the beginning of federal regulations focused on making large trucks safe, thousands of lives have been saved on roadways in the United States.  But, over the last decade, fatal crashes involving large trucks have been on the rise again.  According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 2009 and 2017, the number of fatal crashes in the U.S. involving large trucks increased by 42%.

Currently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s inspection-monitoring system aids the nation’s state police departments by letting them know which drivers or companies have red flags requiring more frequent inspections.

New technologies being used in the trucking industry, such as forward-looking camera systems, collision mitigation technology, and trailer tracking are designed to help prevent crashes.  Despite these technologies, however, fatalities in large truck involved collisions continue to rise.

Crowded highway with many tractor trailer trucks

6.  80% of car-truck crashes are actually caused by car drivers.

A study conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute indicates that 81% of the time, car drivers are assigned fault in crashes involving large trucks.  Specifically, cars were responsible 91% of the time in head-on crashes, 91% of the time in opposite-direction sideswipes, in 71% of rear-end crashes, and in 77% of same-direction crashes.

7.  How to stay safe when sharing the road with large trucks.

While every crash and injury on our country’s highways is a tragedy, preventing these collisions requires understanding the causes.  So, understanding that the following can help you stay safe when sharing the road with large trucks:

a.  Always drive defensively

Pay attention to locations of other vehicles, including large trucks, traffic flow, vehicle signals, and weather so you can have enough time to react to problems.

b.  Stay out of blind spots

The largest blind spot for a large truck is on its right side.  Sometimes, a truck driver’s view can be blocked on the right for three or more lanes.  Other blind spots are right in front of the cab, close behind the trailer as well as certain areas along the driver’s side.  AVOID THESE AREAS!  You want to make sure the truck driver can see you!

c.  Practice Safe Passing

Don’t linger when passing large trucks.  And, drive more closely to the shoulder of the road than to the truck

d.  Don’t cut large trucks off

Larger trucks have much longer stopping distances, which can be up to two football fields when traveling highway speeds.  Make sure you can see the whole front end of the truck in your rear view mirror before you merge in front of it.

e.  Dim your lights

Bright headlights that reflect off large truck mirrors can cause two seconds or more of blindness when traveling at 55 miles per hour.

Talk to a Lawyer First!

If you’ve been injured in an accident with a large truck or tractor trailer, you might be contacted by the trucking company’s insurance representative very quickly.  Sometimes, insurance companies will try to call you as soon as the day after the accident.  Before you talk to any insurance company, you should get the advice of an experienced truck accident lawyer.  Most lawyers will give you a free consultation to talk about what you might be entitled to receive.  At the Ritchie Law Firm, you can talk to an experienced truck accident lawyer for free . . . NO STRINGS ATTACHED!!

Whether the insurance company contacts you quickly or not, the faster you seek legal advice from a lawyer who knows truck accidents, the better.  With a tractor trailer crash, prompt investigation is critical to successfully recovering money damages in your case.  Because accidents involving tractor trailers are devastating, making sure that things like skid mark measurements and impact marks are preserved are often essential to a good recovery.

Experienced Tractor Trailer Accident Lawyers

The five lawyers at the Ritchie Law Firm have more 145 years of combined experienced handling truck accident cases.  Throughout the nearly half century history of the Ritchie Law Firm, our lawyers have handled thousands of devastating crash cases involving serious and complex injuries such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, internal organ damage, multiple bone fractures, and even death.

You should not have to bear the financial burden of a wreck that was caused by a negligent truck driver.  Accidents involving tractor trailers are devastating. At the Ritchie Law Firm, we can help you hold the other driver accountable and help you get the compensation you need to pay your bills and recover.

Talk with a Virginia and West Virginia Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one suffered significant injuries in a truck or tractor trailer accident in Virginia, Ritchie Law Firm is here to help.  The experienced, certified attorneys at the Ritchie Law Firm has helped thousands of injured victims and their families recover the compensation they deserve after an accident. Contact us by phone at 800-277-6124 or by using our online contact form.

Ritchie Law Firm is a personal injury law firm devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligence. Ritchie Law Firm serves all of Virginia, while helping clients in cities and surrounding areas of Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Staunton, and Winchester also serves clients in West Virginia, including Martinsburg, WV.