As consumers, we rely on trucks to get our goods from one place to another. The American Trucking Association reports that trucks transport about 71 percent of our nation’s freight. In Texas, the growing oil industry has put more trucks than ever on our highways But as a driver, it can be scary to drive next to these monster vehicles. The average 18-wheeler is 70 to 80 feet long and can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. To put this in perspective, the average car on the road is just under 15 feet long with an average weight of under 3,000 pounds. This means that the average semi-truck takes 40 times longer to stop than a car.
Unfortunately, the number of trucking accidents continues to rise. In 2017, the number of fatalities caused by accidents involving trucks rose by 9 percent from the previous year with 4,761 deaths. Comparatively, the total number of motor vehicle accidents overall that year dropped by 2 percent. As the number of trucks on the roads continues to increase, understanding the top causes of truck-involved accidents can help drivers be more aware and may help prevent some of these accidents. If you or a loved one has fell victim to a truck related injury contact a truck accident attorney today to discuss your legal options.
Driver Error and Equipment Problems Lead the Way
In 2007, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration did an extensive review of the main causes of trucking accidents in an attempt to determine why the number of accidents continues to increase. The results were revealing and have encouraged changes in the trucking industry.
Properly caring for your vehicle is one of the most important things you can do to help ensure your safety on the road. A poorly maintained vehicle can cause your car to perform below the manufacturer’s expectations and ultimately can contribute to an accident. Although state and federal regulations require trucking companies to comply with rules mandating annual and daily inspections, the increasing demand for truckers means that far too many trucks are not maintained to the proper standards. Brake problems and tire issues are two of the biggest causes of truck accidents.
- Brake problems: The 2007 large truck crash causation study found that the number one cause of truck-involved accidents was brake problems. Factors that can contribute to brake problems in large trucks include poor maintenance, improper installation, and defective equipment. Weather-related issues can also interfere with a trucks braking system.
- Tire problems: The 2007 study showed that of the 141,000 estimated fatality and injury involved trucking accidents, 8,000 can be contributed to tire problems. In May 2019, one person was killed and several others were injured when the front left tire of the truck blew just north of Lockhart, Texas. A blown tire can cause the driver to lose control, quickly leading to catastrophic events.
Outside of vehicle maintenance, having an experienced driver behind the wheel is one of the best ways to prevent an accident. Unfortunately, a large number of accidents are caused by preventable driver errors. Some of the most common driver errors include:
- Driving too fast for road conditions: As drivers, we are taught that we must modify the way we drive based on changing road conditions. With large trucks, this is exponentially important. Rain, sun, and fog can all affect a driver’s ability to control the vehicle. Driving too fast for road conditions comes in just behind brake problems as a top cause of truck accidents.
- Unfamiliarity with the roadway: An unexpected sharp turn or steep hill can be difficult for a tractor-trailer to navigate. Changing routes, high turnover, and road conditions are all top contributors to a driver being unfamiliar with the road.
- Distracted driving: Eating while driving, texting and driving, and adjusting the radio can all cause a driver to take their eyes off the road. It only takes a few seconds to cause a devastating accident.
Once believed to be the leading cause of truck accidents, driver fatigue still ranks in the top ten. With driver shortages at an all-time high, the demands on existing drivers continue to increase. Though regulations limit the number of hours a driver can be on the road and outline the amount of time they must have between shifts, these rules are not always followed. Even with these guidelines, outside circumstances, health problems, or just the act of driving long periods at a time can cause fatigue. With multiple studies showing that drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, driver fatigue is a serious problem.
Other Drivers Play a Big Role
In addition to mechanical issues and driver errors, the driving habits of the surrounding passenger vehicles play a substantial role in the number of accidents. According to the 2007 study, twice as many accidents were caused by a drowsy passenger vehicle driver than were by a drowsy truck driver. And while driving under the influence ranks low for truck drivers, it is one of the leading causes of accidents caused by the passenger vehicle.
As drivers, we also need to remember that large trucks need more time to stop, more room to turn, and have several large blind spots. Far too many accidents are caused by poor driving by surrounding vehicles. If you are driving near a big rig, give them extra room. Defensive driving is one of the best ways you can prevent yourself from being involved in an injury. As always, if you see a driver who is driving recklessly or appears to be under the influence, contact the police.
An Experienced Attorney Can Help
Truck accidents can leave victims with lifelong injuries requiring ongoing treatment. A truck accident can be a traumatic experience and dealing with insurance companies and the court system is not something you should have to do alone. If you have been involved in a truck accident, contacting an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you fight for your rights, understand the complexities of the legal system, and help place you on the best road to recovery.