Cars are dangerous – they’re heavy, fast, powerful, and unfortunately susceptible to operator error. Trucks have the same problems, just magnified. A truck is bigger and heavier than a car and drivers have to deal with maneuvering a trailer in addition to the cab. To make matters worse, drivers are often on tight schedules and have to drive for long hours, making it tough to stay sharp for the entire trip. In addition, passenger car drivers often don’t know how to handle truck traffic and aren’t aware of the capabilities and limitations of a truck.
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Truck crashes can be extremely serious, causing major injuries and property damage. Every year, there are more than half a million accidents involving large trucks. Those accidents result in about 100,000 serious injuries and more than 5,000 deaths. Most of those victims were passengers in cars and pickup trucks that were struck by a semi-truck.
We know that semi-truck crashes are dangerous, but why do they happen? The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration performed a study on almost 150,000 crashes involving large trucks to find what issues are most likely to cause accidents. Let’s take a look at what they found.
Accidents Caused by Trucks
About half of accidents are attributable to the large truck involved in the accident. The critical reasons that cause truck crashes can be divided into three main categories: environmental factors, truck or equipment malfunction, and driver-related issues.
Environmental factors only accounted for about 3% of the accidents included in the study that were caused by large trucks. This category includes weather, road conditions, and other factors outside the vehicle. Weather, for example, can affect visibility and make roads slick with rain or ice. Road conditions may vary due to poor maintenance or roads may be re-routed due to construction or other accidents, meaning a driver may have to travel over unfamiliar roads. These issues tend to be very difficult to correct or account for.
Truck and Equipment Malfunction
A truck is a large and complicated machine and it needs regular maintenance in order to run properly. An improperly maintained truck may not be able to brake adequately or may have shifting or steering issues. A semi is hard enough to control as is – there’s no need to add bad maintenance and equipment malfunction to the mix. This category also covers improper loading, which can cause loads to shift while in transit. A serious load shift can cause the driver to lose control of the truck. This category accounted for about 10% of the crashes in the study that were caused by large trucks.
This category is by far the largest, accounting for about 87% of the crashes caused by trucks. Driver issues are further split into four subcategories: performance, non-performance, recognition, and decision.
Performance refers to instances in which the driver made a wrong move. Perhaps she overcompensated, panicked, or attempted to maneuver and lost control. These account for about 9% of the crashes caused by trucks. Non-performance, on the other hand, refers to times when the driver could not act due to incapacities, such as falling asleep at the wheel, being inebriated or under the influence of drugs, or suffering a stroke or heart attack. That covers another 12% of the crashes caused by trucks. The Recognition category covers instances of driver inattention, such as distraction by a cell phone. Recognition issues make up 28% of the crashes caused by trucks. Finally, a whopping 38% of truck-caused crashes are attributable to Decision issues. The Decision category includes all issues of judgment. It includes speeding, following too closely, or misjudging the speed of nearby vehicles.
Accidents Caused by Other Drivers
Half of the accidents are caused by large trucks. Half are caused by other drivers. Crashes caused by passenger cars are most often attributable to interruption of the traffic flow, driving on unfamiliar roads, and distraction. Other common causes include speeding, making illegal turns or lane changes, inattention to the road and to traffic, and fatigue.
How to Stay Safe
The best way to stay safe from crashes involving semi-trucks is to follow general guidelines for safe driving. Follow all the rules of the road – don’t speed, don’t drive aggressively, don’t tailgate. Focus only on driving. Distraction is dangerous and, all too often, deadly. Finally, be aware of the abilities and limitations of semi-trucks. Stay farther back from a semi-truck than you would from another passenger car. Semi-truck drivers have limited visibility and large blind spots to the sides and rear, so stay out of those areas. Remember that semi-trucks often make wide right turns, meaning they’ll be turning across a lane. Don’t pull up on the right side of a truck that’s going to make a right-hand turn.
The best way to stay safe is to pay attention.
Have you been injured in a truck accident?
We can help. Truck accident law is a specialized area of practice. Our attorneys have substantial experience in dealing with truck accident law and truck accident cases. We have access to a team of experts across the country who can analyze everything from road conditions to the driver’s actions to general best practices for truck driving in order to help build your case. If you’ve been injured in an accident with a large truck, you may be entitled to compensation.
Compensation for an accident for which you are not at fault can include medical expenses, lost wages, lost future earnings, pain and suffering, and more. We can help you build your case and pursue it to the fullest extent. If you’re injured in a truck accident, you may be offered a settlement by an insurance company. Never accept a settlement without consulting an attorney; the insurance company will try to offer you as little money as possible. Once you accept a settlement offer, you typically lose the right to claim more compensation later.
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, contact one of our experienced attorneys today for a free consultation about your case and your options.