FMCSA report: Fatal crashes down in 2014 while miles traveled were up

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 4/22/2016

Fatal crashes were down in 2014 despite an increase in vehicles-miles-traveled, according to a recent report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

In the official Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts for 2014 released by the Analysis Division of the FMCSA, 3,903 people were killed in a crash involving a large truck in 2014, down from 3,981 in 2013. Trucks traveled more than 279 billion miles in 2014, up from 275 billion miles the previous year. Fatality rate per 100 million VMT for large trucks was 1.40, a 3.5 percent decrease year-to-year. “Large trucks” is defined as a truck with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds.

Only 3 percent of large truck drivers involved in a fatal crash had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01 or greater and 1.8 percent had a BAC over the legal limit of 0.08. That is a stark difference to fatal accidents involving passenger vehicles. More than 26 percent of passenger vehicle drivers involved in a fatal crash had a BAC of 0.01 or greater and more than 22 percent were at or above the legal limit.

Fatalities were down for both single-unit and combination trucks, both in total number and rate per 100 million VMT. Although single-unit trucks outnumbered combination trucks by nearly 6 million, single-unit trucks had a lower VMT average. Per 100 million VMT, 1.04 fatalities occurred in single-unit truck crashes, compared with 1.67 for combination trucks.

Most large truck crashes occurred at speeds equal to or less than 65 mph. Nearly 80 percent of crashes occurred at 65 mph or below, with more than 34 percent occurring between 50-55 mph. The average speed at which the crash occurred was 55.9 mph.

Daytime driving was reported to be the deadliest, with more than 63 percent of fatal crashes occurring between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The three-hour period with the most fatal crashes fell between noon and 3 p.m., accounting for 16.4 percent of crashes.

Mondays and Wednesdays experienced the most fatal accidents with 17.3 percent of crashes occurring on each day. More than 83 percent of fatal crashes occurred on a weekday.

Fatal crashes mostly occurred on rural roadways (60.6 percent) compared with urban roadways (38.5 percent).

Although fatal crashes are down nationwide, 20 states experienced an increase ranging from one more crash compared to 2013 (Alaska and Virginia) to 41 (California). Adjusted to crashes per million people, North Dakota had the highest rate at 55.44 fatal crashes, a 166 percent increase from 2010. There were 1.9 fatal crashes per one million people in Rhode Island, the fewest in the nation.

FMCSA’s report also looked into “critical pre-crash events,” which is defined as the event which made the crash imminent. More than 64 percent of fatal crashes were the result of another vehicle’s actions that made the crash imminent, either in the same lane or encroachment into the large truck’s lane. The data does not reveal or suggest who was at fault.

When it comes to driver-related factors among truckers involved in fatal crashes, no driver-related factors were reported in approximately two-thirds of incidents. Of those where a factor was reported, speeding was the most common at 7.1 percent of all crashes, followed by distraction (cellphone, eating, etc.) at 6.2 percent and impairment (fatigue, alcohol, illness, etc.) at 3.9 percent. Only 1.8 percent of crashes reported a fatigued or asleep driver.

Drivers of passenger vehicles in fatal crashes reported a higher rate of driver-related factors, with more than 58 percent involving at least one factor. Speeding was the leading category (18.4 percent). More than 17 percent of passenger drivers were impaired. The report did not break down the percentage of fatigued or asleep drivers with passenger drivers.

Injuries as a result of a crash involving a truck went up. Approximately 111,000 were injured in a large truck crash, an increase of 17 percent. For every 100 million VMT, there were 39.8 injuries, up 15 percent when compared with 2013.

FMCSA’s fatality statistics do not determine who was at fault in any of the crash data points. FHWA enhanced its methodology for collecting VMT data in 2007, resulting in a large difference in the number of miles traveled attributed to large trucks. Comparing VMT data collected before 2007 to data collected after 2007 could be misleading, the report pointed out.

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