Maryland Highway Safety: Large Truck Fatalities Increased Nationally in 2021

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that nationally, a total of 4,714 people died in traffic accidents involving large trucks in 2021 — a 17-percent increase over 2020.

Passenger vehicle occupants are more likely to die in crashes with large commercial trucks. The main reason seems obvious: Automobiles are significantly outsized by large commercial tractor-trailer trucks, with the risk of cars going underneath trucks (underriding) in highway accidents. Many factors contribute to large commercial truck accidents, including the following:

  • Commercial truck driver fatigue. Federal regulations allow long-haul truck drivers to drive 11 hours at a stretch, then they are required to take a break. However, some commercial drivers, eager to make good time on the road, may continue driving without having had adequate sleep or rest.
  • Longer braking distance required for large trucks to stop. Loaded tractor-trailers require 20 to 40 percent more distance than cars to come to a stop—a situation which can be worsened by slippery road conditions and/or poorly maintained brakes.
  • Vehicle defect violations gone unrepaired. These include brake, tire, and lighting violations, as well as other defective parts revealed in roadside inspections.

The statistics underscore the potential deadliness of commercial truck accidents, with passenger vehicle occupants making up the largest percentage of fatalities. The IIHS reports that of the total 4,714 people who died in large truck crashes in 2021…

  • 16 percent of fatalities were truck occupants
  • 68 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles
  • 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists

While large truck accident rates had been improving for many years, that trend, unfortunately, has reversed itself. The IIHS reports that the number of large commercial truck accident fatalities was 50 percent higher in 2021 than in 2009, when it was the lowest it had been since fatal crash data collection began back in 1975.

How are we doing in Maryland? The National Safety Council reports that 42 trucks were involved in fatal vehicle crashes in Maryland in 2021, making Maryland among the states with the lowest percentage of large-truck involved fatal crashes in 2021. (California, Florida, and Texas had the highest rates.)

However, even one death on our Maryland roadways is one too many. As Maryland accident injury attorneys, we’ve witnessed firsthand the tremendous toll a fatal road crash takes on individuals and families.

We all share the road with large, commercial tractor trailer trucks. They are piloted by hard-working drivers hauling heavy loads of cargo, often across state lines. Whether driving in Maryland this summer or taking an out-of-state road trip — give large trucks plenty of room, respect their size and presence, and always, drive defensively.


Fatality Facts 2021 : Large trucks May 2023

Safety defects and long hours contribute to large truck crashes Dec. 8, 2016

National Safety Council (NSC) Injury Facts – Road Users
Collected online June 8, 2023

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