Trucking Death Rate Declines as Enforcement Toughens

I am pleased with a new report released Monday that shows large truck-related highway fatalities dropped 14.1% to the lowest level yet recorded, according to an analysis of 2009 Department of Transportation data.

Said Bill Graves, President of the American Trucking Associations, which released the report: “This is great news, not just for the trucking industry but for the entire motoring public. These improvements are a testament to the commitment to safety made by the trucking industry, the federal government, and trucking’s law enforcement partners.”

I appreciate that note of recognition, since attorneys are law enforcers as well. This may be a bold claim, but trucking fatality rates have gone down since around the time that West Publishing released my book, Litigating Truck Accident Cases. The book came out shortly after I served as the first chairman of the American Association for Justice’s re-formed Interstate Trucking Litigation Group, where I have taught (and learned from) many other lawyers.

These lawyers, in turn, have taught many lawyers in their respective states that truck cases are not like other auto collision cases. We know that truck companies have taken note of our aggressive strategies, and some have changed to make their companies safer. Together, truck companies and lawyers can continue to work to keep the roads safer. Many truck companies operate safely because it is the right thing to do. In addition, new technologies — including radar systems that detect other vehicles to the side of a truck (a technology we’re now seeing in some automobiles) and electronic-on-board recorders — keep roads safer.

Experienced truck trial lawyers have their place in this equation, as well. Unfortunately, some companies will not operate safely until they are forced to do so because they have increased exposure in lawsuits. I’m proud that I and the many lawyers I have worked with have played a real part in keeping the roads safer.

Specifically, the ATA found 1.17 deaths per 100 million miles traveled in 2009, which is a decline from 1.37 deaths per 100 million miles driven in 2008. The death rate hasn’t been this low since 1975, when DOT began tracking this data. Note also that the Federal Highway Administration data showed that in 2009, trucks traveled 288 billion miles, down 7.4% from 311 billion miles in 2008. Even so, each decline in the fatality statistic represents one less family that doesn’t have to experience the agony of the needless death of a loved one.

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