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Truck Accidents On The Rise

Traffic fatalities have generally decreased as safety technology has improved over the years. The average car in 1982 was smaller and less powerful than the vehicles of today, but it was far more likely to be involved in a fatal crash. Over the past 17 years, only three have seen an increase in fatal accident percentages. The trucking industry has not had the same level of improvement.

Truck accident deaths are actually up from 2009. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, fatal truck accidents have risen more than 18 percent since then. The problem may stem from the fact that the calls for truck safety come from a very different place than the calls for car safety. Automakers may fight against mandatory safety features pushed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but consumers are generally on board. What consumer isn't worried about the safety features of the vehicle they purchase? An accident could spell the end of the driver's life and the lives of everyone in the car.

Truck accidents, on the other hand, often spell the end of the life of any car unlucky enough to encounter the semi. The vast majority of truck accident fatalities are suffered by people other than the truck owner or operator. The consumers of these vehicles are often concerned primarily with cost. The trucking industry is generally aligned against mandatory safety improvements that will cost the truck owner money. Recent hours of service restrictions have led to a host of complaints from trucking companies about attempts to regulate sleep.

Something has to change. The 18 percent increase in truck accident deaths came during a time when the miles driven by big rigs dropped 2.67 percent and the total number of trucks dropped 2.86 percent. The truck industry is simply becoming less safe over time. Estimates suggest that the need for trucking companies to move freight across country are about to rise drastically. A sharp increase in demand is unlikely to improve the safety practices of drivers or the companies employing them.

Source: NBC News, "Truck Accidents Surge, But There's No National Outcry," by Eamon Javers and Jennifer Schlesinger, 30 July 2014

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