Fatal traffic crashes involving big trucks have dropped more than 50 percent in the last five years. But that trend is not continuing this year.

The state transportation department counted 173 fatal commercial vehicle crashes in 2005 but just 88 last year. This year’s numbers are running ahead of those low numbers from 2009, however. The department’s DeAnne Rickabaugh says 38 of the 51 fatal crashes in the first eight months of last year were caused by other motorists–some of whom crossed the center line or who pulled in front of a truck, or made a turn into the path of a truck, or made other mistakes. Six were caused by inattentive truck drivers, four by improper lane use, two blamed on speed.

So far this year, 37 of the 55 fatal crashes involving commercial vehicles have been caused by others. As for truck drivers, nine drivers were inattentive, four are blamed on improper lane changes and three have been attributed to speed.

Rickabaugh says rumble strips have helped keep drivers more alert…and she says cables in the median have cut crossover crashes involving big trucks from 20 in 2005 to just three last year.

DeAnne Rickabaugh talks to Bob Priddy 11:17 mp3