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Truck accident injuries and fatalities: a universal problem

A government official said crashes involving large trucks had killed 50 percent more people than last year. He said it was time to fight back, vowing to reduce the dangerous behaviors of truckers accused of driving with too little sleep and taking drugs to combat fatigue.

While the government official is half a world away in Australia, the problems he described in a recent blistering statement can be found right here in Wisconsin, where far too many truck accidents result in injuries and fatalities on our highways.

Interestingly, the Victorian government official helps preside over a state that has a population just slightly below Wisconsin's. So while we're nearly 10,000 miles apart, we share road safety problems that need to be addressed.

In Victoria, 60 people were killed in collisions involving tractor trailers. Here in Wisconsin, we had 53 fatalities in large truck accidents in 2009.

Some other big rig crash statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation:

  • We had 5,886 large truck crashes in 2009
  • Wisconsin had nearly 2,000 injuries sustained by people involved in semi-truck crashes

Overall, we had 488 fatal crashes in 2009. Compare that to just 287 such crashes in Victoria. While they're slightly worse with large truck fatalities, they're doing significantly better than we are in traffic safety as a whole.

In Victoria, one proposal to reduce truck wrecks is to try to shift some of the freight moved by large trucks to safer railroad cars.

A Melbourne researcher said his studies showed that for every 10 percent shift in freight from truck to rail would save 25 lives annually in Australia. In addition, such a shift would spare people 100 horrific injuries such as brain damage and quadriplegia.

Is it an idea worth considering here in Wisconsin and across the U.S.?

Resource: The Age: "Truck accident deaths up 50 per cent": February 2, 2011

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