Recent Trends in Truck Crashes in Tennessee and Across the U.S.

blurred image of a semi truck on an interstateIt seems like there are more truck accidents on the roads than ever these days, and recent data backs up that unfortunate conclusion. According to the latest truck crash statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System, nearly 5,000 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes in 2017, a nine percent increase from the previous year. These statistics may be disheartening, but they can provide valuable insight on truck crash trends—and could even help drivers avoid a collision with an 18-wheeler.

Statistics Show the Dangers of Large Trucks on U.S. Roads

Year after year, truck accident studies find that the majority of deaths from these collisions involve drivers and passengers of smaller cars. In 2017, 82 percent of fatalities were occupants of cars and passenger vehicles rather than operators of the large truck. As trucks can weigh up to 30 times as much as passenger cars, people traveling around the truck can suffer fatal injuries in a head-on collision, while the higher ground clearance of the trailer is a common cause of underride accidents.

Researchers have uncovered some worrying trends in the most recent truck crash data, including:

  • Increasing number of collisions. Truck crash deaths accounted for eleven percent of all motor vehicle crash fatalities in 2017, with the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes increasing by 10 percent over the previous year. In Tennessee, the number of fatal truck crashes has hovered around 100 per year since 2011, but increased from 104 in 2016 to 121 in 2017.
  • Types of vehicles. Three out of every four deaths in large truck crashes in 2017 was due to a crash with a tractor-trailer, while the rest were sustained in collisions with single-unit trucks. In over 63 percent of cases of fatal large truck crashes, two or more vehicles were involved in the accident.
  • Types of victims. Of the 4,237 fatal crashes involving large trucks in 2017, only 17 percent of victims were occupants of the truck. About 68 percent of victims killed were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, while 14 percent were motorcyclists, pedestrians, or bicyclists.
  • Types of accidents. Over 30 percent of car passengers killed in truck crashes in 2017 were struck head-on by the truck, while 25 percent were struck on the side of the vehicle. In 22 percent of fatal accidents, deaths occurred after the front of the passenger vehicle struck the rear of the large truck.
  • Times of crashes. The most dangerous time to share the road with a semi-truck is during daylight hours on a weekday. About half of all of large truck crash deaths in 2017 occurred between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., and 83 percent of fatal truck wrecks took place between Monday and Friday.
  • Crash locations. Fatal truck accidents are much more likely to occur in rural areas than on city streets. In 2017, about 57 percent of all fatal large truck crashes took place in rural areas, 27 percent occurred on Interstate highways, and 13 percent involved a combination of rural settings and Interstate highways. In addition, at least a third of all fatal work zone crashes involved at least one large truck.
  • Safety violations. While accident reports may not conclusively show the root cause of the collision, truck driver surveys indicate that truckers continue to violate safety regulations. Anonymous truck driver survey responses have shown that drivers often work past the 11-hour drive time mandated by federal hours of service regulations, placing them at risk of truck driver fatigue.

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