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In a semi truck crash, those in smaller vehicles are most at risk

At any given hour of the day or night, large numbers of tractor-trailer trucks are barreling down Louisiana highways. These trucks are vital to the state's economy; they transport our raw materials and manufactured goods to where they are needed. And the trucking industry provides a lot of jobs in our state.

But all these semi trucks on our roads also present serious safety issues. Nationwide, 3,660 people were killed in accidents involving large trucks in 2014, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Occupants of smaller vehicles bore the brunt of these deaths; 68 percent of those killed in semi truck crashes were in a car or another passenger vehicle. Fifteen percent were motorcyclists, bicyclists or pedestrians. Sixteen percent were drivers or occupants of the semi truck.

When the fatal crash was a two-vehicle collision between a semi truck and a passenger vehicle, 97 percent of the deaths were suffered by those in the smaller vehicle.

The disparity in death rates between truck and car occupants is hardly surprising, of course. A tractor-trailer rig can weigh 20 or 30 times as much as a passenger car. And because large trucks have higher ground clearances, a smaller vehicle can go under the truck in a collision, resulting in death or catastrophic injuries.

There are a number of potential causes of semi truck crashes. If the cause was a negligent or distracted truck diver, negligent truck maintenance or truck driver fatigue, the truck owner as well as the driver can be held legally responsible. Those who suffered injuries and the families of those who died can sue the truck company for compensation.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, "Large Trucks," accessed May 27, 2016

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