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Analyzing California and U.S. truck accident data for answers

It can seem like you're surrounded by large trucks when traveling on Los Angeles freeways. Passenger vehicle drivers can't fail to notice tractor-trailers, particularly when they are passing at highway speeds or filling a rearview mirror. Large trucks are well suited to the job of transporting goods, but due to size and weight, can be the most destructive vehicles on California roads.

Large trucks made up only about 4 percent of all registered U.S. vehicles in 2012. Disproportionately, large trucks were involved in 8 percent of all fatal accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported fatal truck crashes, on average, occur 11 times a day in the U.S. and take the lives of almost 4,000 victims annually.

In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recorded about 333,000 truck accidents across the country, claiming the lives of 3,921 people -- 73 percent of the victims were occupants of passenger vehicles. California had 261 large truck fatalities that year. Approximately 104,000 injuries occurred in nationwide truck accidents in 2012, representing a one-year increase of 18 percent.

The number of deadly tractor-trailer accidents has been on the rise since 2009, despite fewer large trucks on the road and fewer semi-truck highway miles traveled. The fatality rate for passenger cars dropped during the same period.

Officials and observers, inside and outside the trucking industry, have not been able to pinpoint the reason for the increase in truck-related deaths. However, there is plenty of speculation. Driver fatigue, poor driver hiring and monitoring practices, misbehavior by passenger vehicle drivers and the trucking industry's powerful influence on lawmakers are possible contributing factors.

As federal regulators, law enforcement agencies and safety advocates worry over statistics, victims of truck accidents struggle with serious injuries. Survivors cope with pain and suffering, disabilities, staggering medical expenses and wage losses. Legal claims give victims the chance to recover compensation for these damages.

Source: CNBC, "Truck accidents surge: Why no national outcry?" Eamon Javers and Jennifer Schlesinger, Jan. 10, 201

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