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Activists Push For Truck Safety Rules

Mar 12, 2007 | AP

Wyoming and Arkansas are the deadliest states for truck crashes, according to a safety group that called Monday for tougher federal regulation to reduce fatalities hovering above 100 a week nationwide for years.

The safest states for truck crashes were Rhode Island and Massachusetts, based on the number of fatalities per 100,000 residents during 2005, the most recent year with complete figures.

Seven years since its creation by Congress to improve the safety of trucks, the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration "is still putting cargo over people," said Joan Claybrook, chair of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways. "This federal agency has failed miserably."

In 1999, when the agency was created, 5,380 people died in crashes with big trucks, Claybrook told a news conference by the Truck Safety Coalition. "That figure has barely budged." It was 5,212 in 2005.

The agency's spokesman, Ian M. Grossman, was not immediately available to respond to the criticism.

Speakers at the event called on the agency to reduce the hours that truckers are allowed to drive without rest, increase safety inspections of big trucks, require on-board electronic monitors to ensure compliance with hours-of-service rules, and train drivers better.

The group said that in 2005 Wyoming had 6.09 deaths in big truck crashes per 100,000 residents, followed by Arkansas at 4.17, Oklahoma at 3.41, New Mexico at 3.27, Mississippi at 3.12, and West Virginia at 3.03.

The safest state, Rhode Island, had 0.09 fatalities per 100,000 residents, followed by Massachusetts at 0.38, Connecticut at 0.48, District of Columbia at 0.54, Hawaii at 0.71, Alaska at 0.75, New York at 0.76, New Hampshire at 0.84 and Delaware at 0.95.

The largest increases in truck fatality rates between 2004 and 2005 came in Oklahoma, South Carolina and Louisiana. The greatest drops were in Alabama, Indiana and South Dakota.

"We spend millions of dollars on food safety. Nearly 61 people die from E.coli (infections) each year, which is equivalent to the four-day death toll from truck crashes," said Jacqueline Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "Anytime there is an E.coli outbreak, the federal government uses every resource available to stop this public health threat. Yet, unsafe big rigs kill and maim tens of thousands each year because truckers are pushed to drive long hours under unsafe conditions while the federal response has been silence and indifference."

Gillan and Claybrook criticized the motor carrier administration for increasing the number of hours a driver can operate a truck by 28 percent since 2003, up to as much as 88 hours over an eight-day tour of duty.

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