Statistics show that between 2009 and 2015, fatal truck accidents in the US increased 15.5 percent, while such accidents in the European Union fell by 23.4 percent. The numbers tell the story:
Fatal truck accidents 2009: 5046
Fatal truck accidents 2015: 3863
Fatal truck accidents 2009: 3380
Fatal truck accidents 2015: 4067
The big question is what has changed in both regions that allows for such a dramatic difference?
Truck Fatality Numbers in Line With Overall Road Death Trends
According to Eurostat statistics about the EU, overall traffic deaths declined on European roads from all causes in the years 2004 to 2014, making the decline in truck fatalities part of a larger trend. Similarly, the increase in US truck fatalities is consistent with the increase in overall traffic fatalities that has occurred in recent years, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Cultural Differences Could Account for Fatality Differences
Observers have noted a few obvious differences between Europe and the United States that contribute to statistics such as these. These include:
- European countries use different standards to determine whether someone is guilty of drunk driving. In the US, a driver is not legally drunk until the blood alcohol content reaches .08. In Europe, there is zero tolerance, meaning that driving with any amount of blood alcohol is a serious violation. There is a greater likelihood of being involved in an accident caused by a drunk driver in the United States.
- Americans are much more resistant to speed cameras, while they are ubiquitous in Europe. This means that US drivers are more likely to violate speed limits.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control, using a mobile device while driving is much more common the US than in Europe.
- European highways are generally newer and reflect current understandings of safe roadway design. They also carry less traffic, which means they are in better condition.
- European trucks are lighter, while US trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Not only do lighter trucks reduce damage to roadways, they also cause less damage when they are involved in accidents.
While fatal truck accidents and traffic fatalities have declined in the US since the 1970s, the current numbers seem to be going in the wrong direction.