20 most dangerous counties for fatal crashes with big trucks


A truck crash March 14 in Pittsford, N.Y. Fortunately the truck driver, and three adults and an infant in a car, had only minor injuries. (AP)

 

We often get email from personal injury law firms that have mined National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash data for insights. Their motive is presumably to drum up business, but there’s also a PSA aspect, and these pitches can uncover some interesting facts. In today’s data dump from a Boston law firm, we learned that there is a place in the oil fields of West Texas where considerably more than half of all fatal vehicle crashes involve a big truck.

Reeves County, Texas, is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The county’s biggest town is Pecos, population 13,000, smack in the middle of the Permian Basin oil patch. Reeves County is also where I-10 and I-20 converge, meaning it’s a nexus for cross-country semi-truck travel. And there’s considerable commercial truck traffic involving the oil and gas industry. Pecos is planning to build a bypass road around the town to divert that and hopefully reduce commercial truck accidents. Meanwhile, 56% of fatal crashes there involve a big truck.

In sheer numbers, there aren’t many fatal crashes in Reeves County, or anywhere else on this list — though any fatalities are too many. But as percentages, the numbers are shocking. Even the Georgia county in last place on this top 20 list sees more than a quarter of fatalities involving a truck.

Going straight to NHTSA provides a great deal more data, and puts some of this in perspective: Nationally, 9.3% of fatal crashes involve a large truck, so clearly the counties on this list are serious outliers.

NHTSA defines a large truck as having a gross vehicle weight rating of over 10,000 pounds — that’s a definition that would include not just semi trucks or other commercial trucks, but would even count some heavy-duty pickups. (Of crashes involving a truck of any size, 71% were these large trucks.) 

In 2021, the last year for which data are available, traffic crashes with large trucks killed 5,788 people. That’s up 17% over 2020. Of those who lost their lives, 72% were occupants of other vehicles, a not-surprising but sobering fact of physics when heavy objects and light objects share the road.

And often not mentioned in these law-firm assessments are the numbers of those who were not killed. NHTSA says an estimated 154,993 people were injured in large-truck crashes.

The counties on this list are pretty rural: Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma. You can imagine that long stretches of desolate highway, speed and a grueling schedule come into play there. Though NHTSA’s report does not assign blame in these crashes.

It’s all a reminder to be extra cautious when out there with the big rigs.

Here is a national map from NHTSA that provides a bigger picture, followed by the law firms’ list of 20 worst counties by percentage:

Large trucks as a percentage of vehicles in fatal crashes, 2021

Screenshot 2024 03 19 at 12.39.40%E2%80%AFPM

Most dangerous counties for fatal accidents with big trucks

County 

State 

No. of fatal crashes involving

a large truck 

No. of total

fatal crashes 

Percentage of crashes

involving a large truck 

1. 

Reeves 

Texas 

39

69 

56.5% 

2. 

Sweetwater 

Wyoming 

24 

54 

44.4% 

3. 

Lea 

New Mexico 

37 

84 

44.1% 

4. 

Howard 

Texas 

24 

84 

43.6% 

5. 

Fayette 

Texas 

22 

52 

42.3% 

6. 

Cibola 

New Mexico 

26 

63 

41.3% 

7. 

Midland 

Texas 

66 

182 

36.3% 

8. 

Erath 

Texas 

18 

52 

34.6% 

9. 

Eddy 

New Mexico 

23 

68 

33.8% 

10. 

Grady 

Oklahoma 

22 

67 

32.8% 

11. 

Waller 

Texas 

25 

78 

32.1% 

12. 

LaPorte 

Indiana 

25 

81 

30.9% 

13. 

Jones 

Mississippi 

17 

57 

29.8% 

14. 

Milam 

Texas 

16 

55 

29.1% 

15. 

Lawrence 

Missouri 

15 

52 

28.9% 

16. (=) 

Miller 

Arkansas 

16 

56 

28.6% 

16. (=) 

West Baton Rouge 

Louisiana 

16 

56 

28.6% 

17. 

La Paz 

Arizona 

21 

74 

28.4% 

18. 

McClain 

Oklahoma 

17 

60 

28.3% 

19. (=) 

Canadian 

Oklahoma 

27 

96 

28.1% 

19. (=) 

McCracken 

Oklahoma 

16 

57 

28.1% 

20. (=) 

Jackson 

Georgia 

19 

69 

27.5% 



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