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Why the risk of being killed by a truck has spiked 40%

Deaths caused by truck wrecks on the rise

In one of my most tragic completely preventable wrongful death cases, Patrick Nunez, a wonderful man who was a loving father and husband, was hit by a truck on the highway in Detroit and killed. The driver of the truck that smashed into his car  had seizures and was on powerful epilepsy medication that causes drowsiness. The truck driver should never have been behind the wheel that day. The truck he was driving had multiple serious safety issues that included tires and brakes. The truck he was driving was out-of-service and should never have been allowed on the road that day if the truck company was doing its job.

Sadly, there are so many preventable and tragic crashes like this one.  But they’re not  “accidents.”  They are preventable.  Often, these truck wrecks are a direct result of trucking companies and drivers violating safety rules.  Serious violations of safety rules  – including unsafe drivers and dangerous, out-of-service trucks on the roads  – are endemic throughout the commercial trucking industry.

And new statistics indicate that truck wrecks  in America, and fatalities for the innocent occupants of other vehicles that are involved in these truck crashes, are also increasing. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the rate of truck wrecks and wrongful deaths has begun to rise after several years of decline.

These statistics are from   2011 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), December 2012:

Truck crash deaths by vehicle occupancy 2011

  • Truck wreck  deaths: In 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, 3,757 people died in collisions with trucks.
  • Truck wreck injuries: Also in 2011, 80,000 more people were seriously injured in truck crashes.
  • Increasing truck crash fatalities: The death toll marked the second straight year fatalities rose, and an 11.2 % increase over 2009’s record low.
  • Who died in these truck wrecks: Wrongful deaths caused by truck  crashes increased across all categories (categories include other vehicle occupants, truck occupants and non occupants, see pie chart).
  • Occupants of other vehicles have the highest fatality rate: 72 percent of people killed in truck accidents were occupants of other vehicles.
  • Truck occupant fatalities increase: Occupant fatalities in multi-vehicle crashes involving trucks have now increased 40 percent since 2009.

What can we take from these unfortunate and staggering  statistics? They show that the vast majority of people killed in truck wrecks are the occupants of cars that are hit.

Like Patrick Nunez.

A passenger in a vehicle that collides with a truck is five times more likely to die than the truck driver.

And in fatal two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck, 97 percent of the deaths were the occupants in the passenger vehicles. This is according to 2011 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), December 2012, Large Truck Crash Overview 2010 and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Department of Transportation (DOT), June 2012.

Here are some safety tips for driving around trucks on the roads.

In the meantime, it is up the government – and truck injury lawyers when the government fails –  to hold trucking companies accountable for negligence after they injure and kill people in preventable crashes.

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Blog Author Steven M. Gursten
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