It takes no more than a glance to see that the coronavirus has resulted in less traffic in Gulfport, across Mississippi and around the nation. Many areas have reported that traffic reductions have meant fewer motor vehicle crashes – one of the very few bright spots in the pandemic.

It is reasonable to assume that with fewer passenger vehicles on the roads, there are also fewer collisions these days involving passenger vehicles and large commercial trucks. However, there are still significant numbers of 18-wheelers rolling in and out of Gulfport on Interstate 10 and it is expected that when the virus has been effectively dealt with, commercial and passenger traffic will resume at or near previous levels – with all the previous dangers of crashes, injuries and fatalities.

Slight increase in truck crashes

According to recently released information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatalities in large truck accidents are projected to have increased by 1 percent last year. The good news is that total traffic fatalities (involving all types of vehicles) are projected to have declined in 2019.

The NHTSA data includes figures for crashes involving trucks with a gross vehicle weight of more than 10,000 pounds. It should be noted that the figures can include some privately owned large pick-up trucks and SUVs, though even the Ford F450 Super Duty Crew Cab weighs in at less than 9,000 pounds and that the biggest pick-ups from Ram and Chevy weigh less.

Ongoing trend

Though there’s a slight projected increase in large truck crash fatalities, NHTSA’s estimate that there will be a decline in overall fatal traffic fatalities continues a trend in recent years. There were slight declines in total traffic deaths in both 2018 and 2017, the agency reported.

Even with those decreases, the NHTSA projects that slightly more than 36,100 people died in road accidents last year, which would be a decrease of about 1.2 percent from the 36,560 traffic fatalities in 2018.

Fatality rate drop

Last year’s traffic fatality rate (calculated by dividing vehicle miles traveled by fatalities) is projected at 1.1 fatalities per 100 million miles, down slightly from the 1.13 rate the year before.

Let’s hope that when traffic returns to past levels, we can continue the downward accident trend with renewed emphasis on big rig safety features, adherence to truck driver hour restrictions and education that can reduce distracted driving among truckers and those who are behind the wheel of cars, SUVs, vans and pick-ups.