NHTSA: 2017 saw less car crash deaths but more large truck deaths

West Virginia residents should know that the number of vehicle crash fatalities went down from 37,806 in 2016 to 37,133 in 2017: a 1.8 percent decrease. Motorcyclist, pedestrian and bicyclist deaths also decreased by 3.1, 1.7 and 8.1 percent, respectively; deaths caused by speeding and distracted driving went down as well, the former by a substantial 5.6 percent. Only one area has bucked the trend: large truck traffic fatalities.

This is according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has referred to data from its Fatality Analysis Reporting System for its report. 2017 has seen a startling 9 percent increase from 4,369 to 4,761 traffic fatalities involving large trucks. NHTSA defines "large truck" as a truck with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds.

Fatal multi-vehicle crashes involving large trucks went up 8.8 percent with 280 more deaths in 2017 than in the previous year. Among large truck crash fatalities, 3,920 were car occupants or non-occupants while 841 were large truck occupants. The latter represents a 16 percent increase.

The number of fatal crashes involving trucks between 10,000 and 14,000 pounds doubled, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA administrator added that most of the fatalities involved trucks weighing less than 26,000 pounds and thus possibly not regulated by the FMCSA.

The data does not address the question of who was to blame in these large truck crashes. Car occupants who incur serious injuries in a ride-under, over-ride, head-on collision or other incidents will want to find out if the trucker was negligent or not. For example, truckers could work beyond their 14-hour on-duty limit and become drowsy at the wheel, or they could neglect to maintain their trucks. With a lawyer, victims might be able to build up a case and negotiate for a settlement with the trucking company.

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