Large truck accidents and those involving buses shot up by 8 percent in 2015, as compared to the year before, according to the latest final data available from the Federal Motor Carrier Association.
The FMCSA reports that while there was a 34 percent dip in the number of truck accidents between 2005 and 2009, this was followed by a 20 percent uptick in collisions between 2009 and 2015. It's risen even more since then. Specifically for large trucks, the number of those involved in fatal crashes rose 8 percent from 3,749 in 2014 to 4,050 in 2015. This 8 percent figure held steady even when factoring in the miles traveled by these trucks, which rose 0.3 percent for trucks and 1.4 percent for buses.
That's a lot of numbers, but the bottom line is theses truck crashes have a real impact on people's lives, and they are often caused by negligent truck drivers and carriers.
Recently, a Hartford truck accident resulted in a semi-truck overturning and blocking traffic on Interstate 91 South near Exit 27 for hours. The driver, a 56-year-old from New Jersey, was later cited for:
- Failure to drive in the proper lane;
- Traveling at an excessive speed;
- Failure to pay annual filing fees.
The trucker personally suffered a minor injury to his neck and shoulder, but thankfully no one else was hurt. Later speaking to Fox 61 News, he explained he was trying to move into the right lane when he lost control of his rig. This resulted in oil spilled all over the highway, which required hazmat cleanup crews from state environmental officials. Although this resulted in snarling traffic on a major thoroughfare for several hours, it could have been much worse.
Large trucks like this one, classified as anywhere between 10,000 and 26,000 pounds, can cause catastrophic injuries and wrongful death when they collide with passenger vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports the vast majority of the time (73 percent) it's the occupants of other vehicles who are hurt in truck accidents. Another 10 percent of those injured are deemed "non-occupants," which would include bicyclists and pedestrians.
In 2014, it's estimated 111,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks, marking a 17 percent increase from the 95,000 injured the year before. Over the course of 10 years, there was an overall 2 percent drop in the number injured in large truck crashes, which peaked at 114,000 in 2005.
The fact that we're seeing a reversal of what had been a downward trend is troubling. It signals a few different factors may be at play. For starters, we have more people on the roads, thanks to lower gas prices and a steadily improving economy. Beyond that, more people are distracted behind the wheel than ever before, with the Pew Research Center reporting nearly 80 percent of all Americans have smartphones. Truck drivers aren't immune to this, especially because life on the road can get monotonous.
One solution some companies have explored is installing dual-facing cameras in truck cabs, which are triggered to record anytime the driver brakes hard, swerves or pulls some other hard-and-fast evasive maneuver. Approximately 400,000 of these cameras have been installed nationwide, and some traffic safety officials believe it could be mandatory in the next few years.