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Large Trucks Involved in 1/3 of North Dakota Road Deaths

Written by Steve Gursten Posted May 13th, 2016

Large trucks are doing damage in North Dakota, claiming the lives of more than 1/3 of people involved in accidents. This number is actually ranked the HIGHEST in the country for truck-related accidents. This number is staggering and something that needs to addressed by the state, as predictions foresee a worse future.


Truck accidents have been a major problem for the state of North Dakota in the recent years. Yet oddly enough, car accidents have actually dropped in that same span of time. For North Dakotan’s, it is cold comfort when the state’s relatively small population of 739,482 is taken into account.

The state death toll is still too high for truck accidents in North Dakota:

This was 28% higher than the national figure for truck involvement in fatal crashes, which is consistently around 10 percent.

In total, the 2014 state road deaths in North Dakota account for under half a percent of the 32,675 people who lost their lives on the roads nationwide in the US, but still ranked the #1 state for truck accident deaths per capita. When calculated according to vehicle miles traveled, the North Dakota road death rate was staggering, leading the nation with 23% of trucks being involved in fatal crashes in 2014.

Accidents on rural roads

The heavily rural nature of North Dakota also sets it apart from the national picture, which places rural road deaths only slightly higher than urban ones. In North Dakota, 116 people died on rural roads compared to 19 on urban roads, a difference of 85% to 15%.

Shockingly, almost 50% of those people were killed in only four counties – McKenzie, Dunn, Mountrail and Williams counties – which together make up the state’s oil patch.

It is not surprising that more accidents happen on rural roads in North Dakota, as most of its commercial activity takes place in the country area. Because of its extremely fertile soil, the state has always been largely agricultural, as food processing has been its biggest industry. These sectors continue to grow steadily each year, leaving no room for comfort when it comes to truck-related accidents.

However, since 2008 North Dakota has been experiencing a boom of a different sort. The state also found large mineral deposits including petroleum, coal, and natural gas sources. North Dakota, similar to Texas, has been going through an oil boom. A large oil patch has been developing in the western part of the state and drilling is expected to continue there for at least another decade. This will require large trucks, and will deteriorate roads quicker than normal.

Trucks on the Road

While the traditional agricultural and food processing activities have always involved the use of large trucks on rural roads, numbers have increased as the sectors have grown. With the development of the oil patch in Western North Dakota, the number of trucks on the road has risen substantially. This could lead to future problems for the already drastic number of deaths caused by trucks.

Surveys done in 2011 explain how the number of trucks on roads in the four counties  with major oil patches are 30-40% higher compared to any other vehicle. It is estimated this number could be at doubled by 2025.

Road infrastructure takes its toll

The condition of roads can have a huge influence on traffic accidents, it affects the way both drivers, and vehicles perform. It’s a vicious circle in North Dakota: where a large proportion of the roads are unpaved, there is an increase in heavy truck traffic. This is putting a strain on the road infrastructure, and deteriorating roads. Then, leads to truck drivers not being able to maneuver through North Dakota roads safely, causing accidents.

Investment and maintenance is vital to keeping the truck accident rate from soaring, but it comes with a high price tag. Projected investment and maintenance needs are estimated at $7 billion between 2013 and 2032. About half of that is for the oil and gas producing counties in the area.

Coping with the consequences

Placing blame or deciding whether there are grounds for a claim are complicated in any accident situation, and probably more so when large trucks are involved. Finding one’s way through the federal and trucking industry regulations and determining who is responsible can be a minefield. Experienced truck attorneys have the knowledge and skill to help in this regard.

Contact us today.

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About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.