Big Rig Accidents in California

Big Rig Accidents in California

Big rigs, or trucks known as 18 wheelers or tractor trailers, weigh up to 80,000 pounds. A typical semi-truck in the United States can travel 100,000 miles in a year. Known for traveling long distances, delivering a major portion of freight throughout the country, and consuming lots of fuel, big rigs are often seen on the nation’s roads and are often in the news when it comes to major traffic accidents. California is no exception and, according to crash statistics from the Department of Transportation, the state has more fatal crashes involving large trucks than any other, except for Texas.

Large Truck Fatalities in California

Performance metrics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration include fatalities over a five-year reporting period. They show a generally steady number of deaths annually as far as trending goes. These compare to the approximately 3,000 traffic crash related fatalities per year.

YearNo. of Fatalities

The most recent data available from the California Highway Patrol is from 2013. Below is a list of truck collisions resulting in injuries and fatalities over five years.


These statistics reveal the number of crashes resulting in fatalities as well as injuries, so, therefore, differ from the NHTSA numbers. Other facts determined by analyses of 2013 over 2012 data show a decrease in fatal collisions at the fault of the truck driver, but injury-related crashes at the driver’s fault had increased.

The numbers also show trends when broken down by county. Los Angeles County had the highest number of truck-related traffic incidents, with 1,689 injuries in 2013 and 53 deaths that year, but the total of people injured due to truck collisions was 2,400. San Bernardino County had 464 truck-related injuries and 26 fatalities, while Riverside County saw 325 crash injuries and 10 deaths. At 300 accident-related injuries involving large trucks, Orange County was near the top as well; there were 12 fatalities in this category in 2013.

The most common causes of truck driver fault were speeding, unsafe lane changes, improper turning, and violating an automobile right of way. Alcohol or drug use was a factor in very few cases, a total of 32 in 2013, compared to 980 incidents related to speeding. Other contributors were disobeying traffic signals and signs, hazardous parking, brake or light problems, and improper passing. Following another vehicle too closely was a factor as well. However, when movement was factored in, the most fatal collisions involved a truck that was traveling straight ahead.

California’s high population, complex transportation network, and large numbers of trucks and freight transported contribute to the accident rate. Nationally, a quarter of all fatal large truck crashes happens on interstate highways. The state’s heavily traveled interstate system is a focus for accidents, especially in large urban areas such as Los Angeles, which is statistically the most accident-prone area here.

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