Louisiana drivers are well aware that they share the highways and freeways with large trucks. Of course they are careful when passing them and never cut back in front of them too quickly, but what they might not be aware of is that approximately 10 percent of highway deaths involve a large truck. So says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
In 2015, 3,852 people were killed in large truck crashes. By far the greatest number of victims, 69 percent, were driving and/or riding in a car or other passenger vehicle. Another 16 percent were occupants of the trucks, and slightly fewer, 15 percent, were pedestrians or riding motorcycles or bicycles. Of the type of trucks involved in these fatal accidents, 75 percent were tractor-trailers; only 25 percent were single-unit trucks.
The majority of fatal large truck crashes, 53 percent, were on major highways, 30 percent on freeways and interstates, and 14 percent on other roads. Forty-two percent happened between the hours of 6 a.m. and 3 p.m., and only 17 percent occurred on weekends.
The 2015 statistics are only slightly less grim than the ones from 2013. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 3,964 people died in crashes involving large trucks that year and 95,000 additional people were injured.
Why large trucks crash
When fully loaded, large trucks take a long time to stop. Their stopping distance, once the brakes are applied, ranges between 20-40 percent more than that of a car or other smaller vehicle. When the road is wet or slippery, the stopping distance is even greater.
In addition, commercial truck drivers often are fatigued and consequently not as alert as they should be. Federal regulations allow them to drive for 11 hours without stopping to rest and for 77 hours during a given seven-day period. Despite such liberal hours-of-service regulations, however, many drivers disobey them and drive for even longer periods without rest.
Due to their size, large trucks can inflict serious damage to other vehicles in a crash and often cause devastating injuries and death to motorists. Louisiana drivers would do well to take them seriously and proceed with extreme caution when encountering them on the roads.