As a motorist on the highways and byways in and around Baltimore, you are accustomed to seeing big rigs. What you do not want to see, let alone be involved in, is a truck-related crash.
Unfortunately, there has been a sharp increase in large truck accidents in recent years. What is causing these crashes, and where are they happening?
The FMCSA weighs in
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, fatalities involving trucks peaked at 6,702 deaths in 1979. During the ’80s and ’90, the number hovered around 5,500 annual truck-related deaths on the nation’s roads. In the new millennium, the number edged down steadily, reaching a historic low of 3,380 truck fatalities in 2009 – half the number of three decades earlier.
But since then, deaths in truck crashes have been trending up again – a 20 percent increase from 2009 to 2015. The FMCSA tabulated more than 4,000 fatalities and 87,000 injuries in truck accidents in 2015, including 57 truck fatalities in Maryland.
The where and when of crashes
It seems reasonable to think that most crashes involving 18-wheelers occur on busy highways or freeways. However, the FMCSA statistics show that about 60 percent occurred on rural roads, and most happened on weekdays, indicating that trucks in transport (carrying cargo) were largely involved. In fact, 65 percent of all fatal truck crashes in 2015 involved tractor-trailers, and over half of collisions resulting in fatalities or injuries happened between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Why are truck crashes rising in recent years after declining? There are probably a number of factors. Truck deaths bottomed out during the Great Recession in 2009: a slower economy means fewer goods being distributed. As the economy recovered, not only did truck traffic rebound but passenger car drivers (commuters and travelers) were driving more miles. There are simply more cars and trucks sharing the road in 2015. Distracted driving likely has played a role too – truckers, car drivers and pedestrians are dangerously distracted by smartphones.
Facing the aftermath
Passenger vehicles and pickups are obviously at an extreme disadvantage in any kind of skirmish with a big truck. Many things can go wrong with a truck: blown tires or equipment malfunction, overloaded or unbalanced cargo, and fatigue, distraction or traffic violations by the truck driver. A personal injury attorney will tell you that crashes involving large trucks cause some of the most devastating, life-changing injuries. Be alert when sharing the road with big trucks. You do not want to become an FMCSA statistic.