Fatal crash rate steady in 2019; 2020 looks worse

The initial reports of 2019 fatal crash data indicate that the truck crash fatality rate for last year is nearly the same, or very slightly up, from 2018.

The October Preview of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities In 2019 from NHTSA shows:

5,005 fatalities in crashes involving at least one large truck* in in 2019, compared to 5,006 in 2018;

     (*Trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of at least 10,000 pounds.) 

892 “Large truck* occupant” fatalities (truck driver) in 2019, compared to 890 in 2018.

     (*Commercial and noncommercial trucks that weigh more than 10,000 pounds. NTHSA’s tracking data doesn’t don’t separate heavy-duty trucks (26,000-plus pounds GVWR) from light- and medium-duty trucks.)

Overall, fatal crash deaths declined from 2018.

But the preliminary data for 2020 is alarming.

Preliminary data on fatal crash rates for 2020

Across the U.S., total traffic volume decreased by more than 16% in the first six months of 2020.

Because traffic volumes decreased more significantly than did the number of fatal crashes, the traffic fatality rate per 100 million VMT (vehicle miles traveled), is projected to increase significantly in the first half of 2020.

The fatal crash rate isn’t specific to passenger vehicles. We would guess that the number of trucker crash deaths will rise as well. As essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, truckers have still been on the roads while other traffic has declined.

Additionally, NHTSA’s preliminary data for 2020 shows that reckless driving is up—and causing more deaths. The initial projections estimate more deaths per miles traveled, even with fewer cars on the road.

There are a number of reasons this could be happening. Most stem from drivers making bad choices. Average vehicle speeds increased during the second quarter of 2020, as did extreme speeds.

The evidence also suggests that fewer people involved in crashes had used their seat belts.


“Our preliminary findings suggest that since mid-March, more drivers had alcohol or drugs in their systems,”

“Other data suggests that many people are driving faster, especially at excessive speeds, and that fewer people involved in crashes appear to have been wearing seatbelts…”

– NHTSA deputy administrator James Owens

NHTSA data suggests more drivers clocking extreme speeds. The Washington State Patrol reported multiple such instances over 2020.

The fatal crash rates for 2020 are preliminary—not final. However, if the trend continues to track NHTSA’s estimate, our roads and highways were more dangerous in the spring and summer of 2020 than they have been in years.

That’s not good for anyone, including truck drivers.








Recommended Article: Back to Driver’s Ed: Speed increases odds of a fatal crash

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