According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a total of 4,136 people died in large semi-truck crashes in 2018. Sixteen percent of these deaths were semi-truck occupants, sixty-seven percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and fifteen percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. The number of people who died in large semi-truck crashes was thirty-one percent higher in 2018 than in 2009 when it was the lowest it has been since the collection of fatal crash data began in 1975. The number of semi-truck occupants who died was fifty-one percent higher than in 2009.
The majority of death cases in large semi-truck accidents are passengers of vehicle occupants, especially people traveling in smaller cars. Large semi-trucks weigh twenty to thirty times more compared to passenger cars and are taller with much greater ground clearance, which can result in smaller passenger cars ending up beneath large semi-trucks in accidents.
Semi-truck braking capability can be a factor in semi-truck crashes. Loaded tractor-trailers take twenty to forty percent more distance to stop than cars, and the discrepancy is greater for slippery, wet roads or poorly maintained brakes. Semi-truck driver fatigue also is a known crash risk. Drivers of large semi-trucks are allowed by federal hours-of-service regulations to drive up to eleven hours at a stretch. Surveys indicate that many drivers violate the regulations and work longer than permitted. Harvard conducted a study and learned half of the semi-truck drivers interviewed stated they experienced falling asleep while driving.
Fifty-two percent of deaths in large semi-truck crashes in 2018 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, thirty-three percent occurred on interstates and freeways, and fourteen percent occurred on minor roads.
Fifty percent of large semi-truck crash deaths in 2018 occurred from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., compared with thirty percent of crash deaths not involving large semi-trucks.
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