Large Commercial Truck Accidents in NYS Spiked 11% in 2017

Large commercial trucks are an important part of the state and national economy. Accidents involving large trucks on the road are an unfortunate occurrence. New data shows that crashes in New York State involving large trucks spiked sharply in 2017. Last year, there were 12,838 large truck accidents on NY roads. This is an 11% increase over 2016. Despite the sudden increase, truck accidents remain at just about 4% of the total number of vehicle-related accidents in 2017.

The double-digit uptick is curious given that overall statewide traffic accidents edged up only slightly in 2017. Drivers reported 309,371 crashes last year, barely more than 2% over 2016.


Fatalities Both Up and Down

Thankfully, very few truck accidents result in death. Still, with the number of large truck accidents up over last year, it is unsurprising that the number of fatal accidents rose as well. The good news is that the proportion of fatal truck accidents actually declined. Last year saw 93 truck accidents result in deaths, which is only 3 more than in 2016. As such, the percentage of fatal accidents actually fell from 0.78% in 2016 to 0.72% in 2017.

The proportion of non-lethal personal injuries from truck accidents dropped too. In 2017, 31.9% of truck accidents resulted in injuries, down from 33.4% the prior year.


What’s Causing Trucking Accidents?

The overwhelming majority of truck accidents—79%–were the result of human factors. This can include driver fatigue, driver inexperience and violation of traffic laws. The most common factor in large truck accidents is attempting to pass other vehicles or change lanes. In 2017, 3,177 accidents resulted from these kinds of actions. The second-most common factor was driver inattention or driver distraction, which contributed to 2,489 accidents.

Environmental factors were involved in far fewer (1,649) large truck crashes. The most common environmental factor was slippery pavement, followed by an obstructed or limited view.


Top 10 Factors in Truck Accidents (2017)
Passing/Lane Changing 3,177
Driver Inattention/Distraction 2,489
Following Too Closely 1,922
Failure to Yield Right-of-Way 1,337
Unsafe Speed 897
Backing Unsafely 812
Turning Improperly 699
Pavement Slippery 693
Traffic Control Device Disregarded 494
Oversized Vehicle 461


Where Are Truck Accidents Happening?

It should come as no surprise that the greatest number of truck accidents in 2017 occurred in counties with high populations. Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island had the most truck crashes, with 1,164 and 1,120 respectively. They were followed by four out the five boroughs of NYC: Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan.

Most Large Truck Crashes (2017)
NASSAU 1,164
QUEENS 1,070
ERIE 656


However, when considering crashes per population, the list looks very different. Schenectady had the highest rate of truck crashes per capita, with 3.95 per 1,000 residents. It is followed by Schoharie and Genesee counties.

County Population Total  Crashes per 1,000
SCHENECTADY 31,420 124 3.95
SCHOHARIE 18,000 43 2.39
GENESEE 57,956 119 2.05
CORTLAND 47,786 77 1.61
HAMILTON 4,485 7 1.56
MONTGOMERY 49,258 74 1.50
ALBANY 309,612 396 1.28
SARATOGA 155,565 194 1.25
ORANGE 382,226 454 1.19
CHAUTAUQUA 129,046 146 1.13


When Are Truck Accidents Happening?

As one might expect, the bulk of accidents involving large trucks takes place during the daytime in between rush hour. In 2017, the largest share of truck crashes—2,939—happened between 9am and noon. The next greatest amount (2,873) occurred between noon and 3pm. This is only marginally more than occurred during the morning (2,326) and evening (2,174) rush hours.

Since many large trucks are commercial vehicles being used for business, the majority of related accidents took place during the weekdays. Monday was generally the lightest, with 2,062 crashes happening that day (17%). Thursdays saw the most truck accidents, with 2,410 or 19%.

December 2017 had the most crashes of any month last year. A total of 1,737 truck accidents occurred in the last month of 2017, or 13.53%. This is statistically unusual; From 2009 to 2016, the proportion of truck accidents in December averaged 8.65% for the year. In fact, most months typically average between 7% and 9.5% of the total accidents for any given year. The only month that came close to such a high proportion was January 2011, which experienced 11.13% of the accidents for that year.

When looking at automobile accidents at large, a similar trend appears. Just over 13% of overall traffic accidents took place in December, a month normally known for a more moderate proportion of crashes.

Regardless of when or where they occur, large truck accidents can be serious for all vehicles involved. Last year saw an overall increase in automotive accidents, but truck accidents had a larger-than-normal spike. Still, the lethality and overall injury rate in truck accidents was down, meaning a larger proportion of those crashes only involved property damage. Some of that can likely be attributed to increased automotive safety technology. But good driving habits are always helpful, especially in years where the total number of traffic tickets is on the rise, as happened last year. For more of our analysis on traffic ticket and accident trends from 2017, check out our other data pages.