Grimes & Fertitta, P.C.

Truck accident injuries on the rise even as fatalities decrease

If you've ever had a near-miss with a commercial truck -- perhaps a frighteningly close lane change or what you were certain would be a rear-end collision -- you may have considered how deadly these extra-large vehicles can be. Some recent statistics suggest that drivers should be increasingly aware of the potential for an accident.

According to a recent report released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the number of fatal truck accidents decreased in 2014 by approximately 5 percent. While this is certainly a positive, the report also showed that truck accident-related injuries increased significantly -- 21 percent. While it may seem odd at first that fatalities decreased while injuries increased, there are several possible factors behind this surprising trend.

One possible reason is that the statistics were based on accident data from 2014, which was the first full year that the FMCSA's 34-hour restart regulations were in effect. The regulations specify that the 34-hour restart can only be used once a week, and at least two of the rest periods must be during the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. According to the vice president of the American Transportation Research Institute, this means that more trucks are driving during daytime hours, including peak traffic times such as rush hour.

This could account for the increase in injury crashes because more drivers are on the road and potentially in the path of a wayward semitrailer. This change also means that trucks may often be going at a much slower rate of speed than they were during the night hours. For example, a truck driving at night on a relatively empty highway may be traveling at an average of 55 mph. However, when that same truck is in operation during daytime, rush hour traffic, the speed can go as low as 5 to 10 mph, significantly increasing the odds of the other driver surviving the accident.

Another possible reason for the decline in fatalities is that trucks are continually being redesigned and outfitted with the latest technology in an effort to make them safer. According to an FMCSA spokesperson, relatively new options such as automatic emergency breaking, lane departure monitoring, electronic stability control and forward collision warning all help decrease the severity of trucking accidents, making previously would-be fatal accidents survivable. Overall increasing congestion on highways -- resulting in lower speeds -- and the continued decrease in the average length of a haul may also have contributed to the decrease in fatalities.

However, statistics matter very little when it is you or someone you love who has been injured or killed in a truck accident. The size and weight of the trucks means even a slow-speed accident can be very serious for the other driver. Dealing with trucking companies and insurance firms can be extremely difficult in the best of circumstances, let alone when you are trying to recover from a serious accident. At Grimes & Fertitta, we can help you with the legal aspects of your situation so you can focus on healing and moving forward.

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