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What makes big rigs so dangerous

While all motor vehicle accidents are unnerving and potentially dangerous, few leave behind the devastation that is common with big rig accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are nearly 450,000 vehicle accidents that involve large trucks every year in the United States. Unfortunately, these accidents result in the death of approximately 4,000 motorists, and another 140,000 experience severe injuries each year. Of the individuals who are killed in large truck accidents, about 74 percent are occupants of other vehicles.

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Infographics on what makes big rigs so dangerous

Why Are Large Truck Accidents so Dangerous?

There are numerous factors that make large truck accidents more dangerous than other types of vehicle accidents.


When a big rig is fully loaded, the combination of the weight of the tractor, the trailer and the load itself can reach an astonishing 80,000 pounds. Considering that some trucks are overloaded, actual weights can be astronomical. The average passenger vehicle on America’s roadways weighs just 3,000 pounds, which is a whopping 26 times lighter than most loaded trucks. This significant difference in vehicle weights is a major reason that smaller vehicles are often completely destroyed and that individuals experience such devastating injuries when they are involved in accidents with big rigs.

Hazardous Materials

As if the sheer size difference associated with large trucks weren’t enough, many big rigs carry hazardous materials that can cause massive explosions as well. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there are more than 800,000 shipments of hazardous materials carried by large trucks each day in the United States. Of these, approximately 5,000 are involved in nonfatal crashes, and another 200 crashes with Hazmat trucks result in death annually. While these numbers may seem small in comparison to the number of truck accidents as a whole, the damages involved with hazardous material trucks are typically much more significant.


Large trucks spend the majority of their time traveling along highways and other major roadways at high rates of speed. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), speed not only influences the risk for vehicle crashes, but the severity of damages and injuries as well. In fact, the impact realized in a higher speed accident can be 20 times more damaging than that experienced in a low-speed crash. Furthermore, high speed crashes are significantly more likely to result in serious injury or death.

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