It is no secret that the biggest vehicles rolling through Belgrade on Interstate 90 are also the most dangerous. Large commercial trucks here can weigh up to 131,060 pounds. When an 18-wheeler at maximum weight collides with a passenger vehicle, the occupants of the smaller vehicle are at great risk of severe injury or death.
Increase in truck crash fatalities
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates, fatalities in accidents involving large trucks (weighing more than 10,000 pounds) on public highways are projected to have increased by 1 percent last year. There is some good news in the agency’s projections for 2019, however: overall traffic fatalities are expected to drop.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says its “top priority remains to reduce crashes and fatalities on the nation’s roadways” with improved rules on trucker hours-of-service and enhanced big rig safety technologies, among other efforts.
Positive trend continues
Though NHTSA projects a small increase in large-truck crash fatalities, the small decrease in overall traffic fatalities continues a positive trend extending over the past few years. The agency says its data indicates slightly more than 36,100 died on U.S. streets, highways and roads in crashes last year. That’s about 1.2 percent less than the 36,560 fatalities in 2018.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said, “this report that traffic fatalities appear to have decreased again for the third year is great news.”
Fatality rate down
A deeper dive into the numbers reveals more good news. Though total traffic fatalities are down, vehicle miles traveled are slightly up. That means that even though Americans are driving more, fewer drivers and passengers are being killed in crashes.
A recent news article on the trends stated it this way: “The projected fatality rate for 2019 was 1.1 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down from 1.13 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2018.”
The NHTSA divides the nation into 10 regions, with only one of them – the southeast region (Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina) – showing an increase in overall traffic crash fatalities.
Distracted driving blamed
It should be noted that though national traffic deaths are projected to be down for 2019, they remain higher than they were in 2009 when there were 33,883 traffic-related fatalities.
Experts believe that a steady increase in distracted driving is one of the major factors in that increase over a decade.
Other common causes of motor vehicle wrecks include impaired driving, excess speed and (especially in commercial truck crashes), driver fatigue.