Commercial Truck Accidents
A 46-year-old motorcyclist was killed in a San Antonio truck accident after a semi-truck carrying rocks flipped over. The crash caused rocks to cascade onto the roadway creating an unavoidable obstacle along Loop 410 near Somerset Road. The driver, transporting a load of concrete rocks, lost control of the vehicle. An attempt to regain control ultimately caused the trailer to flip over on its side.
As the cargo and debris scattered the roadway, traffic was brought to a halting stop. The motorcyclist, unable to react and stop his bike in time, collided with the vehicle he was following. Despite valiant efforts to save his life, the motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene. The truck driver, too, sustained injuries requiring transportation to the hospital.
Bexar County experienced 2,420 traffic accidents involving commercial motor vehicles. Unfortunately, those accidents resulted in 14 people losing their lives and 153 others suffering incapacitating injuries. Commercial trucks—i.e., semi-trucks, big rigs, and 18-wheelers—are responsible for around 4,000 deaths each year. Occupants of passenger vehicles, which are involved in collisions with commercial vehicles, account for the majority of those deaths. If you were injured or lost a loved one in a commercial truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Why Are Truck Accidents So Dangerous?
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes the sheer size of commercial trucks is a major contributor to the severity of accidents. Commercial trucks typically weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger vehicles. Other risks increasing the potential for an accident involving commercial trucks include:
- Commercial trucks require more time to safely stop the vehicle. Trucks require 20 to 40 percent more distance than smaller vehicles to come to a safe stop. Wet road conditions or improper maintenance of a truck’s brakes only increase the distance required to safely stop the vehicle. Because trucks are incapable of stopping quickly, reckless driving can increase the risk of an accident. For example, many accidents result from a passenger vehicle pulling out in front of or cutting off a commercial truck. Additionally, hazards in the roadway, such as a pedestrian or stalled vehicle increase the risk of a collision.
- Commercial trucks lack the maneuverability afforded to smaller vehicles. Truck drivers are unable to quickly react to avoid accidents because commercial trucks are susceptible to turning over. Obviously, truck drivers, who choose to exceed the speed limit or drive too fast for the conditions of the road, increase the risk of collision.
- Commercial trucks have significant blind spots. Semi-trucks have large blind spots on all four sides. Blind spots prevent truck drivers from viewing smaller vehicles in the side or rearview mirrors. Vehicles traveling within these areas are at risk of the driver not being aware that they are there. When a driver changes lanes, speeds up, or stops, they may collide with vehicles they are unable to see.
- Commercial trucks have a high center of gravity. Because commercial trucks are taller vehicles, they are inherently prone to overturning. Trucks are lifted from the ground posing a hazard to smaller vehicles getting trapped beneath them, a phenomenon known as an under-ride.
- Commercial trucks make wide turns. Generally, trucks are required to post a sign warning other drivers that the truck makes wide turns. Inattentive drivers risk a head on collision if they do not accommodate the truck’s turn onto a narrow roadway.
What Causes Trucks to Crash?
Most motor vehicle crashes can be attributed to driver’s inattention or negligence. The same is true for commercial truck accidents, as well. Some factors that may lead a commercial truck accident include:
- Improperly loaded or shifted cargo causing an imbalance in the truck’s weight.
- Fatigue. Truck drivers drive long hours and a lot of miles, often through unexciting terrain. Interestingly, many drivers suffer from sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that causes an individual to stop breathing for short intervals while sleeping. Sleep apnea interrupts the sleep cycle leaving affected individuals feeling tired even after sleeping for several hours.
- Improper maintenance. Truck drivers are required to drive long distances, necessitating the need for regular maintenance. Improper maintenance causing decreased functioning of critical systems, e.g., the brake or steering system, frequently result in accidents.
- Distractions. Distractions increase the risks of an accident for all drivers. For example, texting, eating or drinking, setting the GPS while driving, or adjusting other controls in the truck increases the risks of collision.
- Impairment. Federal regulations require regular testing of commercial truck drivers for alcohol and certain drugs. However, prescription and over-the-counter medications can also contribute to driver impairment.
- Tailgating. Despite the required distance to safely stop, some truck drivers follow other vehicles too closely, increasing the risk of a serious accident.
- Lack of training. Due to a shortage of commercial truck drivers, many drivers are not properly trained.
Can You Avoid Truck Accidents?
Not all truck accidents can be avoided. However, drivers of passenger cars can do several things to reduce their risk of collision with a commercial truck, including:
- Be aware of a truck driver’s blind spot. To know if you are visible to a truck driver, look for the driver’s reflection in his or her side mirrors. If you can’t see the driver in the mirror, he or she likely can’t see you either.
- If you need to pull over, pull completely off the roadway beyond the shoulder and use your hazard lights. This will increase your visibility to other drivers, especially those sitting high up in a commercial truck.
- Allow extra space when changing lanes or pulling out in front of a truck. Remember that commercial trucks require a lot more distance to stop or even safely slow down. Allowing a little extra space will largely decrease the risk of an accident.
- Avoid positioning your vehicle to the right side of a commercial truck at an intersection. Truc may need extra room to accommodate wide turns.
If you were injured or lost a loved one due to a truck accident, consulting an experienced truck accident lawyer can help you determine if you can recover compensation for the damages you sustained.