Comedian Tracy Morgan continues to be on the mend following a June 7 crash involving a Wal-Mart tractor trailer that claimed the life of one person and severely injured three others, including Morgan.
The fact the Morgan is on the mend, however, is not the news, following an Aug. 11 interview on NBC’s “Today” show with Morgan’s lawyer, Benedict P. Morelli. Morgan, along with other crash survivors Ardia Fuqua and Jeffrey Millea, filed a lawsuit in July in U.S. District Court and naming Wal-Mart as the defendant in the case, according to Morelli. In the interview, Morelli claims Wal-Mart should have known that truck driver Kevin Roper had been away for more than 24 hours when the crash occurred. Furthermore, Morelli claims trucks are to blame for more than 27,000 deaths each year.
“You have to understand what happens here,” Morelli said. “They know. … There are 75 deaths a day from big rigs,” he said, citing statistics from 2012.
There are two things in that statement with which I have a problem.
First, trucks are not responsible for 75 deaths each and every day in the United States. I cannot accurately state how many people are killed in the world each day, but to say that 27,375 people die on U.S. roads each year because of a truck is ludicrous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 3,921 deaths in 2012 that involved a truck (the most recent year that statistics are available). That comes out to just under 11 people per day killed in an accident that involved a truck. Let me be very clear that I believe that is too many. Any loss of life is tragic and for someone to be killed in an accident of any kind is senseless.
But let me get to the second point that irritates me: It is very simple to step in front of a camera and spew inaccurate information and know that a majority of the people listening will accept what you are saying. Let me present this question: Of the accidents in 2012 that killed 3,921 people, how many were the fault of the truck and/or truck driver?
In 2013, the American Trucking Associations looked at extensive studies done by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. In studying more than 8,000 fatal truck crashes between 2007 and 2009 to determine fault, UMTRI found that cars (including cars, vans, SUVs and pickup trucks) were at fault 81 percent of the time. FMCSA had a similar outcome to its study with 85 percent of cars being responsible for a fatal crash in 2007 and 2008, while 81 percent of cars were at fault in 2009.
The NHTSA study showed that cars were responsible for 91 percent of head-on crashes, 91 percent of opposite direction sideswipes, 71 percent of rear-end crashes and 77 percent of same direction sideswipes.
It is truly unfortunate that it is now “big news” when a truck is involved in an accident that claims the life of the truck driver, someone in another vehicle involved in the accident, a pedestrian or another innocent bystander. But let’s be clear and accurate when reporting it. Who was at fault?
In the accident involving Morgan, indicators show the truck driver may have been at fault. That is, however, the statistical minority. Studies over the past decade have shown that while fatal accidents involving trucks and cars have dramatically declined, even in the event of a fatality involving a big rig, the majority of the time, the truck driver is not at fault.
This happens mostly because drivers of smaller vehicles do not respect, nor do they understand that trucks have much less maneuverability and, because trucks generally weigh more than 20,000 pounds, they cannot stop or slow down as quickly as the smaller vehicles.
As a general rule, trucks are at fault less than 23 percent of the time. That means about 3 out of 4 crashes are the fault of the smaller vehicle. Instead of sensationalizing a tragic event, maybe we should report on what really happens on America’s roads instead of giving the transportation industry and perpetual black eye.
Author: Larry Hurrle, Editor IT Magazine