Texas Leads ‘Deadliest Dozen’ for Most Fatal 18-Wheeler Accidents in the U.S.December 5, 2023
Discover Why Texas Tops Per Capita & Overall Rankings for Most Deadly Truck Wrecks
Fatal truck wrecks have skyrocketed recently, and most deaths from these 18-wheeler accidents occur in Texas. That’s according to a 2023 report from the Trucking Safety Coalition (TSC) entitled, Deadliest Truck Crash States.
Analyzing crash data from federal transportation authorities, the TSC report not only exposed an alarming increase in fatal truck accidents nationwide, but it also highlighted:
- How many more deadly 18-wheeler wrecks have occurred recently
- Why fatal 18-wheeler accidents have spiked over the past year and decade
- What states make up the Deadliest Dozen for fatal truck accidents
- Why most deadly truck accidents occur in Texas
- Recommendations for reducing deadly truck wrecks in Texas & the U.S.
How Many More Deadly 18-Wheeler Accidents Have There Been Recently?
Fatal truck wrecks have been on the rise at a staggering rate, the latest statistics show. Specifically, authorities report that:
- At least 5,600 people were killed in deadly big rig crashes in 2021, the most recent year for which complete data is available. Another 146,000 were hurt in these collisions.
- Comparing 2021 data to the previous year, fatal truck wrecks in the U.S. have surged by about 13%.
- Since 2009, deadly truck accidents in the U.S. have increased even more radically, rising by ~66% over the last 12 or so years.
As horrific as these findings may be on their own, they can be even more difficult to digest in light of the following:
- Roughly 97% of the deaths from fatal big rig crashes impact the occupants of a passenger vehicle, not those in a tractor-trailer.
- Truckers who are 19 and 20 years old are about 6 times more likely to be involved in a deadly 18-wheeler accident than truck drivers who are 21 and up.
- Deadly 18-wheeler wrecks cost U.S. taxpayers at least $180 billion every year.
With these insights, safety authorities and the trucking industry have renewed their focus on tractor-trailer accidents, injuries, and deaths, intent on determining:
- What’s really behind the data
- What can be done to reverse this tragic trend to save lives.
Why Have 18-Wheeler Accidents Increased Recently?
This is the billion-dollar question that many want answers to ASAP — and some experts have already stepped up to offer some possibilities, including:
- Poor driving behaviors: Driver distraction, fatigue, and impairment are still causing truck wrecks, even though these behaviors are totally avoidable. Similarly, speeding and failing to abide by traffic laws are contributing to tractor-trailer wrecks at exceedingly high rates.
- Lax safety requirements for trucks: Tractor-trailers aren’t always required to be outfitted with the latest safety devices and the most advanced life-saving technology. In fact, side underride guards and speed limiters are not safety requirements for today’s big rigs. That’s resulted in preventable crashes and deaths, some experts believe.
- Inadequate training for truckers: New truck drivers and those hauling uniquely risky cargo don’t always receive sufficient or complete training, federal authorities say. A particular area of concern lies with teen truckers, meaning those who are 18 to 20 and have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). With few official training requirements, new, young, and specialized truckers tend to have much higher crash risks.
- More: State policies may be contributing to the rise in deadly truck wrecks, with speed limiter bans in some states. Similarly, poor roadway infrastructure and even the highway work zones set up to address those issues could be factoring into some fatal tractor-trailer wrecks. In some cases, motor carriers may have a hand in these crashes too, especially if they put unsafe truckers on the road or they create policies that encourage their drivers to violate the law or trucking regulations.
Remarkably, these and other factors increasing fatal big rig wrecks are more prominent in some states than others. That’s why trucking safety experts have identified the Deadliest Dozen when it comes to tractor-trailer accidents in the U.S.
Deadliest Dozen States for Truck Wrecks
The Deadliest Dozen states for 18-wheeler crashes were ranked based on the incidence of big rig crash deaths per every 100,000 residents in the state. Using 2021 data from federal authorities, experts crunched the numbers to identify the Deadliest Dozen, as highlighted in the table below.
For some context, last year’s Deadliest Dozen, based on 2020 data, are featured below as well.
|Deadliest Dozen States
for Fatal Truck Accidents
|Fatal Truck Accidents Per Capita in 2021
(Per 100k Pop.)
|Fatal Truck Accidents Per Capita in 2020
(Per 100k Pop.)
|1. New Mexico
|11. South Carolina
Notably, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico made their debut on the per capita Deadliest Dozen ranking for the year while other states — like Idaho, North Dakota, and Tennessee — fell off this notorious list in the latest rankings.
Also crucial is the fact that The Deadliest Dozen do not necessarily or always align with the states that report the highest death totals from 18-wheeler accidents. In fact, the table below shows the total deaths from truck accidents in 2021 versus 2020, and some of the states here (like California and Florida) do NOT appear in the Deadliest Dozen states in recent years.
|Deadliest Dozen States
for Fatal Truck Accidents
from Truck Accidents
from Truck Accidents
Focused on bringing these numbers down to zero, authorities have taken a critical eye toward each state on the Deadliest Dozen list, looking to address more local factors that could contribute to unnecessary risks and deaths on the roads.
Why Do Most Deadly Truck Accidents Occur in Texas?
Texas has led the nation in fatal 18-wheeler accidents for years, and the Lone Star state leads by a lot. In fact, over the past two years, deaths from Texas truck wrecks have been at least 60% higher than fatalities reported from the second-highest-ranking state on the list, California. Moreover, last year, Texas truck accident deaths nearly equaled the deaths in California and Florida combined.
There are several reasons why Texas continues to be ranked first when it comes to most fatal 18-wheeler accidents nationwide. Here are a few:
- Tons of traffic: In a recent ranking of the states with the most congestion, Texas ranked 11th, with roughly 58% of its interstates experiencing routine congestion (as compared to the national average of 47%). Such dense traffic can increase the risks of wrecks while deteriorating roadway conditions faster.
- More interstate highway: Texas is home to more interstate highway roads and, therefore, more cross-country traffic than any other state in the U.S. More vehicles and drivers on Texas roads naturally can raise crash risks for any travelers and vehicles on them, including 18-wheelers.
- Poor road conditions: Houston and Texas metros are notorious for risky roads and poorly maintained highways. In fact, Houston alone has been ranked among the top 25 metros with the worst road conditions in the nation.
- The oil and gas industry: As a hub of the U.S. oil and gas industry, including onshore and offshore drilling operations, Texas has more oil tanker traffic than most other states. It’s also home to Route 285, which has been dubbed the “Death Highway” because it’s the site of dozens of fatal truck wrecks year in and year out.
These aren’t the only reasons why Texas far outpaces any other state in truck accident deaths. They are, however, some focal points for authorities who are trying to reduce these wrecks and make Texas roads safer for all motorists.
What Authorities Recommend to Reduce Deadly Truck Wrecks in Texas & the U.S.
Beyond naming the Deadliest Dozen, the TSC report also shared some recommendations to help authorities take action. Some of those included:
- New safety testing: The TSC report has urged lawmakers to mandate new safety impact testing for side underride guards.
- New safety rules: Experts want federal regulators to issue updated rules regarding automatic emergency braking and speed limiters for 18-wheelers and all commercial vehicles.
- Full funding for safety programs: Lawmakers need to fully fund key trucking safety programs run by federal authorities to ensure key provisions and oversight remain in place, the TSC says.
- New tests for truckers: The TSC report has also requested a brand-new exam to test truckers’ knowledge, especially when it comes to safety operations, handling hazardous materials, and more. No such testing currently exists.
Now, it may be up to Congress, state authorities, motor carriers, and others to take the next steps and leverage the latest truck accident death statistics for positive action.
Whether or not that happens, one fatal truck accident is one too many when someone you love is involved. When that occurs, negligence is usually a factor too, and it can take an experienced truck accident lawyer to help you sort out who’s to blame and the options for justice.