Large truck fatalities down 4.4 percent in 2007

The number of highway fatalities in crashes involving large trucks totaled 4,808 in 2007 — a 4.4 percent drop from 2006 and the lowest number since 1992, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported. Large truck fatalities have dropped 8.2 percent over the last three years. The number of large truck crashes involving a fatality dropped 7.9 percent between 2005 and 2007.

Truck occupant fatalities decreased 0.4 percent, and fatalities for occupants of other vehicles involved in the crash dropped 5.2 percent. Fatalities for people who were not a vehicle occupant, such as cyclists or pedestrians, decreased 4.7 percent.

The improvement in large truck crash statistics mirrors reductions in fatalities and injuries for all highway users, according to NHTSA’s data, which was released Thursday, Aug. 14. In 2007, the overall number of traffic fatalities fell to 41,059, the lowest number since 1994. In addition, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 1.37, the lowest fatality rate on record.

NHTSA said that 2.49 million people were injured in highway crashes last year, the lowest seen since it began collecting injury data in 1988.

“Thanks to safer vehicles, aggressive law enforcement and our efforts, countless families were spared the devastating news that a loved one was not coming home last year,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said. “You can be sure that we’re not stopping here. The quest is not over until that bottom-line number is zero.”

John Hill, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said today, Aug. 15, that the results don’t back up the claims of some in Congress who recently have cast doubts on state and FMCSA enforcement and oversight efforts. He noted that in 2007, FMCSA and its state partners conducted 16,102 compliance reviews (CRs) — 41.5 percent more than in 2004. The 3.37 million inspections of drivers and vehicles in 2007 is 12.8 percent higher than in 2004.

Hill believes that the next big improvement in safety could come from greater adoption of truck safety technologies such as electronic stability control and adaptive cruise control. He praised lawmakers in Congress who recently introduced legislation to offer tax credits for installation of such systems.

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The trucking industry sees greater on-highway enforcement as key to the safety improvement. “The statistics from this most recent study show that the efforts of law enforcement agencies to focus on the most likely causes of crashes, such as speeding and impaired driving, are making our highways safer,” said Bill Graves, president and chief executive officer of the American Trucking Associations.

Graves noted that this continued safety improvement occurred under the new federal hours-of-service regulations, and the new figures add to the growing evidence that the regulations are working and should be retained. “While we are pleased that overall fatalities have decreased, we still have room to improve safe driving habits of truck drivers and passenger vehicle drivers,” he said.

NHTSA collects crash statistics annually from 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to produce annual reports on fatalities and injuries. To view the 2007 report in its entirety, click here.