Fatal Trucking Accidents Increase for the Fourth Year in a Row
America’s highways have become safer places over the last decade but the number of accidents involving big rigs has bucked the trend.
A recent article in Insurance Journal found the number of people who died in big rig crashes increased for the fourth straight year in 2013, bucking a trend of overall improvement in U.S. highway safety.
Deaths in tractor trailer accidents rose to 3,964 people last year. The death toll includes truckers, pedestrians and the occupants of other vehicles that were in collisions with the trucks, the U.S. Transportation Department stated in its annual traffic-injury report. The figure represents a 0.5 percent increase from 2012, even though highway deaths involving all types of vehicles fell by 3.1 percent to 32,719.
Regulators are hopeful that the series of year-on-year increases will soon end. New federal standards requiring stability- control technology to prevent rollovers and trucks, and forthcoming rules that may require stronger underride guards on the rears of semi- trailers can help reverse the trend, officials said. Nevertheless, stricter federal rules intended to tackle tiredness on the highways, appears to have had a minimal effect on accidents.
“We do know tired truckers are a risk on our roads,” David Friedman, the deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was quoted as saying in the Insurance Journal article. “Any effort to reduce the number of people who are tired or drowsy on the road can have an impact.”
The report was issued shortly after Congress suspended some regulations intended to ensure truckers get adequate rest.
Lawmakers had targeted a part of the rule that would close a loophole that kept some drivers from working 82 hours over eight days, stated Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. The provision now is unlikely to be enforced for at least a year as regulators carry out research to see if it had an unintended effect of forcing more trucks onto the road during rush hours.
Regulators will monitor whether the new policy affects the death count from big rigs, Foxx told members of the media.
“The hours-of-service rule is a critically important rule,” Foxx said. “Critical pieces of it have now been changed.”
Friedman maintained the overall state of highway safety is improving. He pointed to the decline in all kinds of traffic deaths in 2013, stressing the year tied an all-time record for the lowest fatality rate — 1.1 people were killed for every 100 million vehicle- miles traveled.
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