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Big-rig fatals a blot on generally positive traffic death report

Good news. Overall, highway traffic deaths in 2013 fell by 3.1 percent. Bad news. The number of deaths related to large-truck crashes increased by 0.5 percent.

That's the word from the U.S. Transportation Department. It says deaths attributable to all types of vehicle crashes came in at just under 33,000 for 2013 -- the latest year for which full data is available. And while the overall number reflects a continuing downward trend, the data shows that fatalities in accidents involving semitrailer and other large trucks increased for the fourth year in a row. The total number of people killed was 3,964.

Georgia saw the number of deaths in large truck accidents tick up slightly, as well, according to the data.

In supplying the numbers, the government breaks out who was killed by specific segments. It says that from 2012 to 2013, the number of large-truck occupants and occupants of other vehicles who died declined slightly. But the number of nonoccupants killed in large-truck collisions jumped 13 percent.

For those who might be wondering, nonoccupants could be best described as pedestrians. Forty-nine such deaths were recorded in 2013. Bloomberg recently reported that safety officials say this trend could be reversed through newly approved rules to enhance stability control technology and a rule we recently wrote about related to strengthening underride guards on trucks.

But that observation comes even as other rules for improving truck safety are in a state of flux. As reports, regulators have delayed a string of safety rules updates. And Congress recently took action to suspend an hours of service rule meant to ensure that big-rig drivers aren't being pushed to take to the road without adequate rest.

We suspect that the latest DOT report will serve to fuel ongoing discussions, but what effect it will have on the outcome is unclear. What do you think?

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "2013 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview," accessed Jan. 7, 2015

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