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According to the United States Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in 2001 5,082 people died and 131,000 suffered injury as the result of collisions involving a large truck. The costs of large truck crashes in 1997 exceeded twenty-four billion dollars, including $8.7 billion in productivity losses, $2.5 billion in resource costs, and quality of life losses valued at $13.1 billion. The FMCSA's Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) classifies a truck as large if its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) exceeds 10,000 pounds.

Large Truck Crash Fatalities and Injuries

While fatalities from large truck crashes have declined each year since 1997 ­ from 5,398 in 1997 to 5,082 in 2001 ­ large truck crashes account for four percent of people injured, and more troubling, twelve percent of people killed in all motor vehicle crashes. Another disconcerting facts is that only about fourteen percent of those killed and twenty-three percent of those injured in large truck crashes were occupants of large trucks. As a result, the majority of those who suffer as a result large truck crashes are drivers and occupants of non-commercial passenger vehicles.

Eighty-two percent of all fatal truck crashes involved at least one other vehicle, usually a passenger vehicle. Of the 409,000 police-reported crashes involving a large truck in 2001, 4,431 resulted in at least one person being killed and another 86,000 resulted in at least one person being injured.

In twenty-one percent of fatal crashes involving a large truck speeding (exceeding the speed limit or driving too fast for conditions) represented a contributing factor. In large truck crashes in which injury resulted, twenty-one percent involved speeding. For seventy-seven percent of the fatal crashes and for seventy-one percent of the nonfatal crashes involving large trucks, the first harmful event was a collision with another vehicle. Rollover was the first harmful event for only four percent of the fatal crashes and only three percent of the nonfatal crashes involving large trucks.

While only five percent of fatal large truck crashes occurred in construction or maintenance work zones, large truck crashes account for twenty-two percent of all fatal crashes that occur in work zones. In 2001, 42,116 people died on our nation's highways, 5,082 because of a large truck. Four percent of trucks involved in fatal crashes and two percent of trucks involved in nonfatal crashes were carrying hazardous materials. In sixteen percent of those crashes these large trucks released hazardous material from the cargo compartment.

The majority of large truck crashes occurred in good weather, on dry roads, during the daytime, and on weekdays. Only one percent of large truck drivers in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol content (BAC) level at or above 0.08 grams per deciliter, compared to twenty-three percent of car and light truck drivers and twenty-nine percent of motorcycle drivers involved in fatal crashes. Thus, alcohol represents less of a factor in fatal, large truck accidents than in fatal accidents not involving large trucks. Federal law prohibits driving a large truck with a 0.02 BAC level or higher.

The ten states with the most fatalities from large truck crashes in 2001 were Texas, with 459, California, with 365, Florida, with 335, Georgia, with 228, North Carolina, with 186, Illinois, with 180, Pennsylvania, with 167, Ohio, with 161, Alabama, with 144 and Missouri, with 129. Eight of these states rank among the top eleven states in population size. Only Alabama, which ranks twenty-third in population, and Missouri, which ranks seventeenth in population, are not among the top eleven states in population.

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The law limits the amount of time in which a plaintiff may file an action for injuries. This time limit varies with the type of injury, the nature of the claim, and the state within which the plaintiff files suit. If you believe that you have suffered an injury or the loss of a family member as the result of a large truck accident, it is imperative that you contact a qualified attorney in order to ensure that you maintain and protect your rights.

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