Truck occupant deaths rise in 2012, along with overall highway fatalities, NHTSA says

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truck crashThe number of highway deaths rose in 2012 from 2011 by 1,082, according to preliminary data released this week by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The numbers come from the 2012 Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which says that 33,561 highway fatalities occurred in 2012.

The number of large truck occupant fatalities also rose, seeing an increase for three consecutive years. NHTSA says the number of large truck occupant fatalities increased 8.9 percent in 2012 to 697. In 2011, the number of large truck occupant deaths rose 20 percent from 2010.

The increase in total highway fatalities was the first year-to-year rise since 2005. However, highway deaths in the last half-decade are at “historic lows,” NHTSA says.

As reported in last year, fatalities in 2011 were at their lowest level since 1949. Even with the increase last year, the number of deaths was at its lowest point since 1950 in 2012.

Americans in 2012 drove about the same number of miles as they did in 2011.

The number of fatalities from crashes deemed to be caused by distracted driving fell slightly to 3,328, from 3,360. Click here to see NHTSA’s preliminary results.

The American Trucking Associations said the report, however, “paints an incomplete and misleading picture of the nation’s trucking industry,” as the catch-all term of large-truck occupant makes the public think of freight-hauling tractor-trailers, as opposed to the smaller, non-freight-hauling vehicles that have higher crash rates than larger trucks.

“The federal government should not be so casual with its terminology,” said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves,” and should provide further information and clarity to the public.”

The research arm of the ATA, the American Transportation Research Institute, has found that medium-duty trucks generally perform worse in terms of safety than heavy-duty trucks. Also, ATA says, interstate motor carriers are generally more safe than their intrastate counterparts.