The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently completed an analysis of data collected from the Department of Transportation. The data demonstrates that large trucks pose a substantial danger to passenger vehicle occupants, despite improving safety numbers. When a large truck is involved in a crash, it is the people in passenger vehicles who are most at risk. The sheer size of semi trucks protects truck drivers and endangers anyone in a smaller vehicle.
The size difference between the average car and an 18-wheeler is enormous. A typical car weighs between 2,500 and 4,000 pounds. The legal weight for a semi truck is 80,000 pounds. Trucks are also substantially taller than passenger cars. This means that, in a collision, cars can easily be crushed and pushed underneath a semi truck. The result of such a crash is often a fatality.
In 2014, 68 percent of the fatalities in large truck crashes were suffered by the occupants of cars and passenger vehicles. A mere 16 percent of the deaths were occupants of the large trucks. It is possible the disconnect between driver error and personal risk contributes to the number of incidents of distracted driving and fatigued driving among truckers. Of course, there is no shortage of distracted driving incidents among passenger vehicle occupants and they are not protected by a weight and size advantage in a collision.
Tractor-trailer crashes kill thousands of people every year on American roads. Industry experts are predicting that the amount of truck traffic will rise sharply in coming years. It is important to understand the nature of truck accidents in order to help prevent them and protect the driving public.
Source: IIHS, “Large Trucks,” February 2016