Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board held a two day conference on bus and big truck accidents and highway safety. The forum heard from safety experts and federal regulators regarding truck and bus accidents and why some past safety measures have still not been enacted. The deadly tractor-trailer accident that killed ten people in Oklahoma in 2009 as well as the recent deadly tour bus accidents in the East were at the forefront of participants’ minds.
Truck fatalities in recent years have decreased but safety experts warn much work remains to be done and that the improved statistics may only be temporary. Big truck fatalities have dropped significantly between 2005 and 2009, according to the most recent figures available from the Department of Transportation.
In 2005, there were over 5,200 fatalities from truck accidents, and in 2009 there were 3,200 truck accident fatalities. The decline is an improvement, but the number of overall highway fatalities has also declined. Experts believe the overall decline is related to a decline in driving caused by the weak economy. Some believe the fatality rate will increase when the economy further recovers.
The annual number of tour bus fatalities is much lower than truck fatalities. Between 2000 and 2009, there have been 338 fatal tour bus accidents, which is about 20 tour bus fatalities per year. The tour bus industry serves over 700 million passengers per year in the United States, comparable to the airline industry.
The Obama administration would like to improve current tour bus and large truck highway laws and plans to focus on mitigating the effects of tired drivers. Next time, we will talk about the administration’s proposals and about opposing arguments from the industry.