As anyone who’s spent any amount of time on an expressway recently knows, semi-trucks are everywhere. Without question, these gigantic vehicles that we share the road with daily play a vital role in keeping commerce running smoothly throughout our country. They’re invaluable, and it would be difficult to do without them. While this is true, it’s important to note that, even though these trucks are invaluable to commerce today, they can also be dangerous. Indeed, approximately 5,000 people die in passenger vehicles each year as a result of accidents involving a semi-truck, not to mention the countless injuries that occur.
As you might imagine, when these often catastrophic accidents occur, it is usually not the commercial drivers who most often suffer severe injuries or death. In fact, it is often the driver and passengers in the other, smaller vehicles involved in the accident that sustain the most significant damage. After all, a passenger vehicle weighs, on average, approximately 4,000 pounds while an 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Though we can’t avoid sharing the road with these large trucks, we can be aware of the most common causes of accidents so that we can take precautionary steps toward avoiding these accidents in the future. Some of the most common causes of collisions involving semi-trucks include:
- Driver Error: Like all of us, truck drivers are human. They make mistakes just like any other drivers do. Keeping a safe distance from other vehicles, being patient with slower or reckless drivers, and using turn signals, all of these are important steps for truckers to take – just as they are for all drivers. To meet deadlines, however, truckers will often drive over the speed limit, which, in turn, can lead to significantly reduced reaction time. Drivers who are exceeding the speed limit, if required to break suddenly or veer into another section of the road, can often quickly cause an accident. In addition, truckers are usually required to achieve a threshold number of training hours and to meet minimum guidelines before being allowed on the road. Some drivers, unfortunately, fail to complete these training requirements thoroughly, which can also lead to driver error. Unfortunately, when truckers fail to take these safe driving and training measures, the results can be tragic.
- Drowsy Driving: One of the most common and frequent causes of truck accidents by far is the fact that drivers are often overworked, and as a result, fatigued. Many truck drivers frequently drive long distances for hours on end with very little rest in between hauls. There is often a significant amount of pressure to deliver goods within predetermined deadlines, and as a result, drivers are often literally and figuratively be running on fumes. Receiving very little quality sleep over the course of these long journeys can result in extreme fatigue. This causes the loss of concentration and coordination, and even in the worst cases, falling asleep at the wheel. Understandably, this can result in devastating accidents occurring in an instant.
- Driving While Under the Influence: As a result of the demanding timelines that truckers are often required to adhere to and the fatigue that results, many drivers, unfortunately, often turn to any number of illegal substances to help them stay awake. Beyond illegal drugs, even drugs that are legally prescribed but impair coordination and judgment are being used by drivers while on the road. As expected, these substances impair their driving and often lead to accidents.
- Poor Vehicle and Cargo Maintenance: By law, truck owners and drivers are required to ensure that their trucks are in top condition before they hit the road. Unfortunately, many drivers (both to save money and to meet deadlines) fail to spend the amount of time necessary to properly maintain their trucks. Poorly maintained trucks are, in fact, one of the most frequent causes of truck accidents. Sometimes, truckers will overestimate the condition of their tires, when, in fact, they are bald or bare and need to be replaced. Later, those same tires blow out, causing an accident. On other occasions, truckers and their companies cut corners on routine brake maintenance, leading to failing brakes that cause tragic accidents. In yet other situations, drivers fail to properly secure their cargo, leading to a series of events that ultimately results in an accident. There are also certain limits as to how much weight a truck is allowed to carry at one time. Though different states have different regulations as to the maximum amount of cargo that can be safely transported at one time, in all states, there are some truckers who try to go over that limit. When they do, the weight of the load can become too heavy to manage safely and can lead to loss of control of the vehicle, loss of the cargo, or both, which can result in roadway accidents.
- Equipment Failure: In some cases, truck equipment may actually be defective from the start. In those cases of product defect, which are not as common as some other causes but which do occur with some frequency, the manufacturer or distributor may be liable for resulting accidents. And, of course, regardless of whether the accident is the fault of the driver or the fault of defective equipment, the results can be just as devastating.
Ultimately, there are any number of reasons why an accident with a semi-truck may occur. Given the number of trucks on the road at any given time, accidents occur with unfortunate frequency. When they do, it’s important to determine the cause and to also get help. If you or a loved one have been hurt or injured in a truck accident of this nature, seeking medical care is the first and most important step. Afterwards, taking a close look at the cause of the accident and your rights under the law will be important. Consulting with an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in this area is a wise step toward recovering the compensation you may very well be entitled to. Call 303 Legal, P.C., to schedule an appointment or contact us online. We’re here to help!