Truckers say traffic deaths underscore need for driver training, crashworthiness

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 5/6/2013

A federal agency that sets and enforces safety and equipment standards for motor vehicles says more people died on the highways in 2012 compared with 2011. While the numbers do not yet show how many fatalities occurred in crashes involving trucks, truckers continue to make a case for comprehensive training for drivers and crashworthiness standards for trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 34,080 people died in crashes involving motor vehicles in 2012. That amounts to a 5.3 percent increase over the 2011 total of 32,367 fatalities.

If the estimate holds up, it would end a six-year trend of year-over-year decreases in fatalities but still amount to a 22 percent decrease over 2005, when 43,510 people died.

NHTSA does not say why the 2012 numbers are up, but does point out that Americans likely drove more miles than they did in 2011.

The Federal Highway Administration says Americans traveled 9.1 billion more miles in 2012 than they did in 2011, an increase of about 0.3 percent.

“While it is too soon to speculate on the contributing factors or potential implications of any increase in deaths on our roadways, it should be noted that the historic downward trend in traffic fatalities in the past several years means any comparison will be to an unprecedented low baseline figure,” NHTSA stated.

“This is a pattern which has continued through the reported totals for 2011 that show deaths at a 60-year low. In fact, fatalities declined by about 26 percent from 2005 to 2011.”

From a trucking perspective, OOIDA continues to advocate for cab crashworthiness standards for trucks and comprehensive training for entry level drivers.

“Some things we do know are true. Back in 2011, truck occupant deaths were up 20 percent, and yet we aren’t seeing a push by NHTSA to improve cab crashworthiness,” says OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley.

“There can always be more done from a highway safety perspective,” he said. “We can continue to do the same things we’ve done decade after decade, or we can get back to basics and make sure that every truck has a qualified driver who has gone through intensified training.”

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