What you Need to Know About Semi-Truck Accidents

Posted - May 11, 2021
A view of an overturned truck on an highway in an accident.

The trucking industry is an essential connection between suppliers and consumers of goods across the United States. The US offers a wide variety of goods, including foods, liquids, products for retail, construction, and farming goods. These goods need to be shipped from centralized locations to our local communities where people and businesses need them.

Upwards of 63 percent of the goods transported across the United States travel by truck. Given the volume of travel, it is inevitable that truck accidents will occur. This article will outline some truck accident statistics, provide some causes of truck accidents, provide some reasons for these accidents, and give the reader some tips to help them share the roadways with truck drivers.

Truck Accident Statistics

All automobile accidents can have catastrophic consequences for all the parties involved; however, tractor-trailer accidents generally cause the most serious damage to those involved. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) releases a yearly report that tracks fatalities in crashes involving trucks and has been doing so since 1975. In 2019, there were 4,119 fatalities and 67 percent of those were occupants of cars and passenger vehicles, while 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.

Unfortunately, over the past 10 years, there has been a 31 percent increase in fatalities for those involved in truck accidents. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also releases similar statistics and found that incidents with truckers were also responsible for 223,000 injuries in 2018 alone.

Most trucks reach their destinations without causing an accident. Unfortunately, when a truck is involved in a wreck the results can be devastating.

What Are The Most Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents

Truck accidents can have a wide variety of causes; however, most truck accidents, according to the FMCSA, fall within a few categories. The FMCSA lists the most common causes as:

  • Running out of the lane that the vehicle should travel in (approximately 32 percent);
  • Loss of control of the vehicle, for reasons including speeding, driving at excessive speeds for conditions (even if the speed limits indicate that it is a safe speed to travel), and vehicle systems failure (approximately 29 percent); and
  • Rear-end collisions (approximately 22 percent).

The FMCSA recognizes that the elements that influence the occurrence of a crash may take hours, days, or months before a crash. These include driver training and experience, vehicle design and manufacture, highway conditions and traffic signaling, and weather conditions. Rarely do crash reconstruction experts conclude that crashes are the result of a single factor.

The FMCSA found that fatigue, drinking alcohol, and speeding are additional major factors in truck accidents. The FMCSA also concluded that there were 10 significant contributors to truck accidents (in addition to those listed above) and include the following:

  • Braking problems;
  • Traffic flow interruptions, such as congestion;
  • Prescription drug use;
  • Traveling too fast for conditions;
  • Unfamiliarity with the roadway;
  • Roadway problems;
  • Required to stop before a crash (traffic control device, crosswalk);
  • Over-the-counter drug use;
  • Inadequate surveillance;

Any of these causes may increase the odds of a truck accident. What is important to note is that truck accident cases are almost always preventable with proper safety and training.

Why Truck Drivers Have Higher Accident Risks

Truck drivers spend countless hours on the road every day. Truck drivers go through extensive training before receiving their license to operate their rigs and they arguably have more experience than almost any other drive on the road. At the same time, truck drivers deal with significant difficulties that can increase accident risks on the road. Below are some of the difficulties truck drivers face:

Truck drivers spend long hours on the road compared to other drivers.

Truck drivers are allowed to drive up to eight full hours before a break is required, and may also drive for 11 hours out of a 14-hour shift.

It is common for truck drivers to stay on the road even when fatigued. Truck drivers may struggle to pay attention to everything around them or may lack full focus on the road after driving that many hours.

Truck drivers drive for a living.

It is common for truck drivers to receive compensation by the mile. Some truck drivers take chances to increase the number of miles that they can travel over an average work shift, while other truck drivers work while sick, injured, and even while excessively fatigued.

In these cases, if a truck driver doesn’t work, they do not receive any compensation, which makes driving under dangerous conditions a necessity for the operator.

Trucks weigh significantly more.

Truck weight may vary drastically based on the cargo and type of truck. It is not uncommon for a truck to weigh 40 tons or more. For perspective, the average passenger vehicle weighs only 2.5 tons. Trucks need a significant amount more time to stop than the average passenger vehicle. Unfortunately, many drivers fail to recognize the increased stopping needs of trucks, and therefore dart in front of a trucker without leaving adequate stopping room.

This can make it difficult for a truck driver to react fast enough. This doesn’t mean that a truck driver is without fault. Truck drivers have a heightened responsibility to account for these types of drivers and must adjust accordingly. Given the additional weight of a truck, the damages caused by such can be devastating to those involved.

Don’t Become A Statistic by Following our Safety Tips

With truck accidents that involve serious injuries and fatalities rising you want to do your part to avoid becoming a statistic if possible. Trucks continue to fill the roads, and our growing need for goods will only increase the number of trucks on the road. Below are some basic safety precautions to keep in mind while on the road:

Watch for blind spots.

If you have ever driven a large vehicle, even a pickup truck or van, you know that blind spots can make it impossible to see other cars moving around. Tractor-trailers have even larger blind spots and when a truck maneuvers when you are in a blind spot it can lead to serious accidents.

If you must drive beside or behind a tractor-trailer, look for the truck driver’s mirrors, and if you cannot see the mirror the driver cannot see you. Avoid sitting in a truck’s blind spot, accelerate to move forward so that they can see you, or reduce your speed so that you fall behind them.

Do not suddenly move in front of a truck.

Tractor-trailers need more room to stop due to their size and weight compared to a traditional vehicle. Pulling in front of a truck driver may cause the truck driver to suddenly slam on his or her brakes which can lead to an accident.

Even if the truck driver is fortunate enough to miss you, the driver may lose control of the trailer and cause a jackknife accident. Always plan your movements accordingly.

Exercise patience.

Many drivers become frustrated when they must share the road with a tractor-trailer. Drivers want to get on with their day and frequently can get frustrated. If you share the road with a truck, exercise patience and realize that slowing down to avoid contributing to an accident is always the best solution.

Keep your distance.

Just as you need to avoid driving for long stretches in a truck’s blind spot, try to avoid coming right up on a truck’s bumper. Smaller vehicles can get pushed under a truck during an accident and these types of wrecks can be fatal.

Learn the right signals.

If you flash your lights at truck drivers who need to change lanes, you are letting the driver know that it is safe to move over. If a truck driver flashes his or her lights, they are letting you know that you may safely move in front of him or her.

Communicating safely with truck drivers on the road helps keep everyone safe.

Learn how to pass safely.

Being stuck behind a big truck often causes frustration for drivers, especially those who are in a hurry to get to their destination. Remember, use your blinker, and always leave adequate room behind you for a truck to slow or brake.

You Need A Lawyer After a Truck Wreck

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a truck accident you may need legal help to assist you in securing compensation for all of your injuries. Contact us today to work with a dedicated team of legal professionals who can handle your case.

At the Genthe Law Firm, P.C. our attorneys have extensive experience in all aspects of truck accident cases and have practiced such cases in both State and Federal courtrooms.