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Special Interest Groups Denounce Car-Truck Crash Statistics


Group Denies Validity of Crash Statistics The Truck Safety Coalition, a partnership between Parents Against Tired Truckers and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, is strongly denouncing the American Trucking Association’s recent truck crash statistics report that showed car drives are responsible for 81% of accidents involving trucks and that trucks are responsible for only 27% of such crashes.

In a letter to ATA’s President and CEO Bill Graves and former chairman Dan England, the Truck Safety Coalition says it’s “appalled to see the American Trucking Association (ATA) renew its fallacious attack on victims of truck crashes…There is no scientific basis for the allegation that passenger vehicle drivers are the major reason for truck-car fatal crashes – there are no data and no studies which have found this to be true.”

However, the ATA says it analyzed crash data from the University of Michigan, the National Highway Safety Administration, AAA and the FMCSA.

The letter criticized the study’s “misuse of old studies,” referencing the use of the 1998, 1999 study by the University of Michigan, stating that the study has been “openly rejected by the DOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.”

 Though the ATA’s study did cite research from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, it also cited two 2007-2009 studies from the FMCSA as well as a 2003 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Even while criticizing the ATA’s use of “old studies,” the Truck Safety Coalition chose to cite one study from 2010, two studies from the 80s and three studies from the 90s as contradictory evidence, claiming that truck drivers are most often at fault.

“It is long past time for the ATA, and the trucking industry as a whole, to stop the cruel public relations game of shifting attention away from the unacceptable death toll caused by big trucks on our nation’s roads,” the letter states.

In the initial ATA release, Graves said, “Every crash, and every fatality and injury, suffered on our nation’s highways is a tragedy… It is also tragic that carriers and drivers across this country are saddled with guilt and blame for many crashes they could do nothing to prevent.”

Here is a summary of the ATA’s report:

University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI): UMTRI is a leader in truck-related crash research. The highlighted study assigns driver factors to 8,309 fatal car-truck crashes as a proxy for fault.

• Car drivers were assigned factors in 81% of crashes versus 27% of truck drivers •

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): Tasked with “reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes,” NHTSA has undertaken extensive research on the topic. Their 2003 study assigned causal driver factors in 10,092 fatalities.

• Cars were assigned driver factors in 91% of head-on crashes, 91% of opposite-direction sideswipes, 71% of rear-end crashes, and 77% of same-direction sideswipes

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: The foundation’s mission is “to identify traffic safety problems, foster research that seeks solutions and disseminate information and educational materials.” This study, one of over 250 projects they’ve funded to discover the causes of crashes, examined 10,732 fatal accidents.

• 36% of car drivers were cited for two or more unsafe acts • 11% of truck drivers were cited for two or more unsafe acts

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA): FMCSA is the primary regulating agency for the trucking industry whose stated mission is “to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.” Two studies are noted below.

Annual Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts: Cites driver factors in 6,131 car-truck fatal crashes

• 2007: 85% of cars were assigned driver factors versus 26% of trucks • 2008: 85% of cars were assigned driver factors versus 26% of trucks • 2009: 81% of cars were assigned driver factors versus 22% of trucks

The Truck Safety Coalition cited the following statistics:

Council et al. (2003) found that in all crashes between trucks and light vehicles, trucks were more likely to be the “contributor” to the crash than light vehicles by 48 percent to 39 percent, and trucks were more responsible than light vehicles in backing, rear-end, right-turn, left-turn, and sideswipe collisions;

 Preusser (1994) found that nonfatal lane change crashes on the Washington, D.C. Interstate Capital Beltway were twice as likely to be the result of a tractor-trailer changing lanes rather than a light vehicle lane change;

 Wolfe and Carsten (1986) found equal apportionment of fault assignment in nonfatal crashes, but car drivers were assigned fault 3 times as often as tractor-trailers drivers, overwhelmingly on the basis of surviving truck driver claims; and,

 Shao (1986) studied highway interchange crashes and found that truck drivers were primarily responsible for the majority of these collisions.


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