How Many Auto Accidents in Pennsylvania Are Caused by Truck Drivers?

Any vehicle is capable of causing massive damage when an accident occurs.  However, heavy commercial trucks, like the 18-wheelers you see hauling steel and lumber down I-676, are especially dangerous due to their size and weight.  When a semi-trailer strikes or overturns onto a passenger vehicle, the smaller vehicle’s occupants are likely to be injured, or sadly, lose their lives.  But how great is this risk?  By examining PennDOT accident data published last year, Philadelphia truck accident lawyer Brent Wieand investigates the frequency with which trucks are involved in crashes in Pennsylvania.

2015 PennDOT Statistics: Collisions and Fatalities Involving Commercial Trucks

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According to a report by PennDOT, there were 127,127 auto accidents throughout the state in 2015.  These crashes caused 1,200 deaths, while another 80,004 people were injured.  Those figures average out to roughly 15 crashes per hour, nine injuries per hour, and one death every seven hours.

Based on the 2015 population of 12,802,503, one out of every 156 Pennsylvanians was injured in an auto accident, and one out of every 10,669 Pennsylvanians was killed.  The risk of being killed in a crash is low – about 0.009%, at least as of 2015 – but accidents are often fatal when commercial trucks are involved.

Just consider the following statistics.  Out of the 1,200 fatalities reported in 2015, a total of 149, or about 12.4%, involved heavy trucks.  Based on that number, you might assume heavy trucks were involved in about 12% of the crashes.  However, in reality, heavy trucks were involved in just 6,916 out of 127,127 crashes, which is barely more than 5%.  Even though only about 5% of accidents involved a truck, trucks were involved in approximately 12% of the fatalities.

These figures make it clear that there is a disproportionately high risk of dying in an accident when a heavy truck is involved, even though truck accidents themselves are uncommon.  In this regard, truck crashes are similar to motorcycle accidents, which also cause a high number of fatalities despite accounting for only a small number of crashes.

In two-vehicle collisions, heavy trucks were frequently the striking vehicle.  Last year in Pennsylvania, heavy trucks hit:

  • 1,099 passenger cars
  • 565 light trucks, vans, or SUVs
  • 299 other heavy trucks
  • 11 bicycles
  • 7 commercial buses
  • 5 motorcycles
  • 4 school buses
  • 1,999 vehicles, total

Just over a quarter of truck crashes occurred on turnpikes, like the Pennsylvania Turnpike and U.S. 30, which is also known as the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike.  Following turnpikes, truck accidents were most likely to occur on:

  • State Highways (Interstates) – 195 accidents (15.4%)
  • State Highways (Other) – 114 (6.2%)
  • Local Roads – 15 (9.3%)

However, PennDOT merged heavy truck crashes with bus accidents to arrive at these figures, which means slightly fewer truck accidents actually occurred on each type of road.

Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Other Drug Use Common in Trucking Industry

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Interestingly, PennDOT noted that “heavy truck drivers accounted for very few of the drinking drivers in crashes,” which is true: only 43 out of 10,336 drunk drivers (0.6%) were operating heavy trucks.  The drivers of passenger vehicles, like cars and SUVs, are far more likely to drive while intoxicated, which is of course a major risk factor for accidents.

Though alcohol may play a limited role, drug abuse is known to be a pervasive issue in the trucking industry, with overworked truckers often turning to illegal stimulants in order to stay awake through long hours – hours which sometimes violate federal regulations, as I discussed in a previous article.

The following data on drug use in the trucking industry is excerpted from research published in the Journal of Forensic Science:

“A total of 1,079 [commercial tractor-trailer] drivers and their vehicles were assessed… 21% of the urine specimens tested positive for either illicit, prescription, and/or over-the-counter drugs, and 7% tested positive for more than one drug.  Excluding caffeine and nicotine, the largest number of positive findings (9.5%) were for [central nervous system] stimulants, such as methamphetamine, amphetamine… and cocaine.”

Philadelphia Truck Accident Lawyer Representing Injury Crash Victims

Trucks are incredibly powerful vehicles, which makes them very dangerous in the hands of the wrong driver.  If you or someone you love was in a Philadelphia car accident, a SEPTA accident, or any other kind of accident involving a collision with a truck driver, compensation may be available for your medical bills, the wages you lost, and other damages.

To talk about your Pennsylvania truck accident claim in a free and private legal consultation, call the Wieand Law Firm, LLC right away at (888) 789-3161.  Our law firm handles Delaware County truck crash claims, truck accidents in Chester County, and throughout southeastern PA.

*Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes.  It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice.  The Wieand Law Firm, LLC is based in Philadelphia, PA, and proud to serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.*

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