NHTSA report says cars most often cause car/truck collisions

| 6/16/2003

A June 2003 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded in part that passenger car drivers share a greater responsibility for car/truck crashes than truckdrivers.

According to the report, "An Analysis of Fatal Large Truck Crashes," rear-end fatal collisions where passenger cars strike commercial motor vehicles are almost four times as likely as trucks rear-ending passenger cars.

Moreover, head-on collisions with passenger cars in the truck's lane occur more than 10 times as often as the truck encroaching in the passenger car's lane. In addition, opposite direction sideswipes involving a passenger car striking the truck in the truck's lane occur more than 12 times as often as trucks encroaching on the passenger car.

The study analyzed different types of fatal crashes involving passenger vehicles and large trucks (more than 10,000 pounds GVWR). It was done by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis to examine the characteristics of large fatal truck crashes. Fatal crashes involving single-unit and combination trucks were studied. Two-vehicle crashes consisting of a large truck and one other vehicle were examined for vehicle and driver-related factors.

The study used data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from 1996 to 2000 and from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's Trucks Involved in Fatal Accidents Survey. Characteristics of large truck crashes, including rollovers and jackknifes, were analyzed.

The study concluded the following:

  • Just over half of all large truck fatalities occur on non-divided two-lane roads. The large truck fatal crash problem is neither on interstates, nor on major highways – it is on non-divided two-lane roads.
  • The relative positions of the vehicles just prior to the crash can be a contributing factor to the crash. For example, using all fatalities as an outcome measure, about 10 times as many fatalities result in sideswipe opposite-director crashes where the passenger vehicle encroached into the truck’s lane, compared with sideswiped opposite-direction crashes where the truck encroached into the passenger vehicle’s lane. “This might suggest that the drivers of the passenger vehicles are somewhat more reckless or overconfident than the large truckdrivers,” the study said.
  • A speed limit of 55 mph or higher, poor weather and a curved road significantly increase the odds of both a rollover and a jackknife for large trucks. As the weight of the large truck and its cargo increases, the odds of a rollover increase, but the odds of a jackknife decrease. Conversely, as the length of a large truck increases, the odds of a rollover decrease, while the odds of a jackknife increase.

A copy of the full report can be downloaded at: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/departments/nrd-30/ncsa/.