Whether you are traveling on Interstate 35 or another of the major thoroughfares in and around Austin, at any given moment, you are likely to be driving near one or more semitrucks. Should an accident occur, if a big rig is involved, injuries to occupants of passenger vehicles can be catastrophic or even fatal.

In fact, while highway deaths are overall on the decline, the same cannot be said for fatalities in crashes involving semitrucks. Along with highway deaths in urban areas like Austin, last year saw an uptick in fatalities with large trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported the findings of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). In comparison with statistics from 2016, there was nearly a 7 percent increase in highway fatalities involving tractor-trailers. In total, all deaths involving semitrucks jumped up 18.7 percent last year.

Why the increase?

As with many events surrounding highway injuries and deaths, it’s complicated. Traffic density definitely plays a role, as does the booming economy that sends more big rigs out on the roads delivering consumer goods.

The data indicates that most of the reported deaths involving semitrucks happen in multi-vehicle accidents. Urban areas that are highly saturated with traffic were particularly prone to traffic fatalities. This is in contrast to earlier years when rural highways typically saw more deaths from accidents.

What this means for motorists

Over time, this uptick may indicate a concerning trend for Austin motorists. However, there are many things that drivers and their passengers can do that will decrease the likelihood of their getting killed or injured in a wreck with a semitruck.

They include:

  • Wearing seat belts
  • Not following trucks and other vehicles too closely
  • Obeying posted speed limits and other rules of the road
  • Not traveling in semitrucks’ multiple blind spots

What all drivers should know

If you wind up involved in a highway collision with a big rig, you should make sure that your right to seek financial compensation from any at-fault driver or trucking company remains fully protected.

This can mean not giving any off-the-cuff statements to law enforcement officers or first responders at the scene of the accident. Any commentary (including apologies) made by drivers at the accident scene may later be used against them to refute claims for damages that the injured parties may make.