Hazmat Crashes Cause Devastating Consequences

Every day, hundreds to thousands of 18-wheelers and big trucks haul hazardous materials across our highways. According to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, there are “more than 800,000 shipments of hazardous materials (hazmat) in trucks-usually flammable liquids, such as gasoline, or flammable gas.” The dangers of getting involved in an accident with a big truck is no secret to anyone, but the dangers of a collision with a big truck carrying hazmat material increase significantly as the potential for injury, property damage, and even death are much greater. While crashes involving hazmat trucks are relatively rare compared to other types of collisions, the possibility of a major catastrophe raises concerns for the traveling population. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 800,000 shipments of hazardous materials in trucks. Types of hazardous materials range “from relatively innocuous products, such as hair spray and perfumes, to bulk shipments of gasoline by highway cargo tanks, to transportation of poisonous, explosive, and radioactive materials.” Collisions can result in explosions, fires, and dangerous spills causing harmful chemicals to be released in the air and nearby land. In terms of statistics, the number of large trucks carrying hazmat that were involved in fatal traffic crashes averaged 225 per year from 1980 through 1990. Since 1991, trucks transporting hazmat materials accounted for approximately 5 percent of annual fatal large truck crash involvements in the 10-year period. But while these numbers are low, collisions with large trucks carrying hazmat materials usually have devastating consequences. As with all large trucks on the highway, be sure to use caution driving around hazmat trucks. Make sure you leave plenty of distance between your vehicle and the truck so they can see you. Also, avoid actions that would cause a large truck to need to swerve or brake suddenly. Large loads make maneuverability more difficult for truck drivers. Your safe, defensive driving could prevent a devastating collision for yourself and other travelers.