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On Monday, a coalition of trucking safety groups called for reform to make America’s highways safer from large truck accidents. Over 100 people a week are killed in large truck accidents on U.S. highways. According to the Truck Safety Coalition, a partnership between the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.) dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries from big truck accidents, there has been an increase in deaths from large truck accidents over the last several years. In 2003, there were 5,036 fatalities. In 2004, the number of deaths increased to 5,190, and in 2005, the number of deaths increased again to 5,212.
According to spokespersons for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the effort at truck safety by government officials pales when compared with federal regulation of food safety, for example. While only about 61 people die from e. coli infections each year, and the federal government uses every resource available to stop the public health threat of contaminated food products, little is done to make Americans safer from big rig accidents. The number killed from e. coli infections each year is the equivalent of a mere four day death toll from truck accidents. Unsafe big rigs kill and maim tens of thousands of people each year because truckers are allowed and even encouraged to drive long hours under unsafe conditions. The federal government’s Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s response has been indifference since its creation in 1999. In fact, the Motor Carrier Safety Administration has increased the number of hours a driver can operate a truck by 28% since 2003, up to as much as 88 hours over 8 days!
According to CRASH, the Motor Carrier Safety Administration has failed miserably, shortchanging public safety for the productivity and economic interests of the trucking industry. When the agency was created, about 5,380 people died in big rig crashes, and that figure has barely budged over the past six years. There were about 5,212 deaths in big truck crashes in 2005, as well as an additional 114,000 injured. And while large trucks account for 3% of registered vehicles, 12 to 13% of traffic deaths involved big trucks.