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Along I-90 in Massachusetts (and I presume elsewhere in the state), there is a digital billboard which sometimes displays a message from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation that a tow truck driver is killed every six days in the US. (I'd love to find a picture of it, but as I'm driving when I see it I haven't been able to take one.) Certainly the message that one needs to be careful on the roads, especially when there are emergency and service vehicles around, is an important one and a good reminder. But 60 or so deaths a year for tow truck drivers sounds like an awful lot.

I've tried doing some research into the source of this statistic, and I've found news articles quoting somebody saying it, but I haven't found the underlying source of this number. The closest I've found is a blog post on the MassDOT's site which says:

The Statewide Towing Association “STA” of Massachusetts, a member of the TIM Network, estimates that a tow truck operator is killed on the job every 6 days, totaling upwards of 60 deaths per year.

But I don't know where the STA got this number from. Is this an accurate description of how often tow truck drivers are killed in the US? Is it specifically about "on-the-job" deaths, or does it include other causes that just happen to have killed tow truck drivers?

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    My local digital sign says "click it or ticket", yet if you're ticketed in my state for a seat belt, you've first been ticketed for a different infraction. I'd say you're right to be skeptical, as those signs seem about as well vetted as a Twitter feed. – fredsbend Apr 18 '18 at 15:26
  • @LarianLeQuella lives up in New England. I wonder if he can reach out to the Mass DoT and ask them where they got that data. – JasonR Apr 18 '18 at 15:33
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    If I were that tow truck driver I'd find a different job. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 18 '18 at 18:50
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    The overall mortality rate in the US is 844 per 100,000. So sixty deaths a year would appear in a randomly selected group of about 7000. I'm fairly certain that there are more than 7000 tow truck drivers in the US. Accidents in general cause about 45 deaths per 100,000. So if there are about 133,333 tow truck drivers, this would be normal accident rates. – Brythan Apr 18 '18 at 20:41
  • @Brythan is that the on-the-job accidental death rate? – Caleth Apr 19 '18 at 10:26
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Well, looking at the census data for fatalities due to transportation incidents and homicides... following the links from www.osha.gov....

https://stats.bls.gov/iif/oshcfoi1.htm#2016 OSHA says 26 fatal injuries in the industry of Motor Vehicle Towing in 2016 (line 568) (link from Static charts, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 2016)

2003 numbers says 28

2005 numbers say 35

So... I think it's at least plausible that there was some year where the statistics coudl be stretched to say 60. Certainly, I'm willing to believe that there was at least one year that had 60+ overall deaths among tow truck drivers. It doesn't look like you got 60 deaths of tow truck drivers purely from motor vehicle accidents, though.

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