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The Institute for Safer Trucking has introduced its latest fact sheet for the state of New Jersey, and it indicates that large truck crash fatalities were up 50% since a decade prior. According to the NHTSA, this reflects commercial truck accident trends across the United States. Still, the numbers have been particularly worrisome in New Jersey, and many area trucking accident lawyers support lawmaker efforts to enact more stringent safety provisions, require more advanced braking systems on these trucks and expand spending to find solutions for this problematic trend.
The IST is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. Its core mission is to make commercial trucking throughout the United States a safer endeavor for drivers and everyone else on the road. One of the important ways it does this is through deeper analysis of the data that the NHTSA collects and makes available to the public. The big data is extremely valuable but often does not provide a clear and concise picture to the American people and their representatives. Once the data is finalized for a particular year, such as 2019 in this case, the IST creates fact sheets for each state that are intended to point out the most important trends to citizens and lawmakers in those jurisdictions.
The IST releases fact sheets for all 50 states. With the 2019 FARS data now available, it is currently preparing the latest fact sheets and releasing them as it completes them. The most recent fact sheet is for New Jersey, which is the core focus here. The fact sheet pares down the big data into smaller pieces of useful information, such as the trend in more fatalities and the number of people who died.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a U.S. federal agency that is responsible for, among other things, ensuring that commercial trucking is safe. One way that it evaluates the industry is through the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The FARS system is used to collect census data on all fatal crashes in the U.S., and when finalized for a particular year, that data is made available to Congress and the American people.
The highlight of the New Jersey fact sheet is that large truck accidents involving fatalities increased 50% between 2010 and 2019. This reflects a national trend that despite increased safety measures, commercial trucking accidents and fatalities are on the rise. Some, but not all, of this increase is explained by the increased number of large trucks that are on the road. Most of the accidents in 2019 that resulted in fatalities occurred on weekdays – between 6 a.m. Monday and 5:59 p.m. Friday – and that data does not come as a surprise. Most accident statistics are higher during this period largely due to the sheer amount of traffic that is using the roads to commute to and from work.
The number of people who lost their lives in New Jersey in 2019 due to accidents involving large trucks was 78. According to the NHTSA, the number of people who died nationwide in that year in similar accidents was 5,005. That number is almost identical to 2018, which saw 5,006 deaths. New Jersey was therefore below the national average by about 22%. Among those who died, 71% were either a driver or passenger in another vehicle, 18% were the operators of the large trucks involved and 11% were nonoccupants, such as pedestrians and pedalcyclists, which is a term that the NHTSA uses to encompasses all nonmotorized vehicles that are powered exclusively by pedals.
Another interesting point made by the fact sheet is that these fatal accidents involved trucks that weighed, on average, 26,000 pounds. That number is perhaps lower than one may expect since loaded commercial trucks often weigh 50,000 pounds and can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Does this suggest that most of the accidents occurred with trucks that did not have a trailer attached or did have a trailer but no cargo? It may, and it does align with data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that fatal large truck crashes in the 10,001- to 14,000-pound weight range increased 37.3% between 2016 and 2019.
Although not covered by the IST fact sheet, the NHTSA also provides interesting data regarding the professional drivers. Among these fatal crashes, only 2% of drivers had blood alcohol concentrations that were above the legal limit, and that is much lower than with other groups, such as 20% among passenger cars and 29% among motorcyclists. These professional drivers were also far less likely than other drivers to have previous suspensions and revocations. However, these truck drivers did have a higher rate at 29% of previously recorded crashes compared to other drivers at large.
The IST fact sheet also highlights the fact that 64% of these fatal crashes involved two or more vehicles. This is similar to the national rate, which is 62%, and indicates that a second vehicle greatly increases the chance that someone will die. Approximately 57% of these accidents occurred in rural areas, 25% on Interstate highways and 13% on Interstate highways and in rural areas. In 4% of all fatal instances, one or more deaths was due to a vehicle rollover.
The final piece of data that the fact sheet highlights is that 11% of all fatal work zone accidents involved a large truck. This is lower than the national average of 14%, but the number is greater than one-third if you consider only those fatalities that involved a motor vehicle accident. The FMCSA made a statement that trucks are overrepresented in such accidents and that something had to be done.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has in the past proposed $400 billion in spending that would be offered to states to implement solutions that could reduce large truck crashes overall. The FMCSA is also considering changes to the hours-of-service regulations that would give drivers more flexibility in taking breaks.
Commercial truck drivers are an essential piece of the U.S. economy and the American way of life. The vast majority of these individuals are skilled, hardworking professionals that do everything they should to keep themselves and other people on the road safe. But mistakes and even negligence do occur. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a large truck, RAM LAW would like to help. Our law firm has handled many personal injury cases in New Jersey involving commercial trucks, including cases that required litigation or going to trial. We have offices in New Brunswick and Somerville, and if you would like to meet with a trucking accident lawyer to discuss your case at no cost and without obligation, you can call us at (732) 394-1549 or contact us online.
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