Understanding the common causes of truck accidents is essential in developing policies and improving road safety to reduce risks. Due to the power and size of a large truck, an accident can have life-changing consequences.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 4,311 buses and large trucks were involved in crashes with fatalities in 2015, which represents an 8% increase over 2014. Sadly, 3,852 people died in these crashes, with 69% being occupants of passenger vehicles, 15% being pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists, while 16% were truck drivers.
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Causes of Truck Accidents
Large truck crashes, which take the lives of more than 3,600 Americans every year and seriously injure thousands more, are caused by a wide range of factors. Driver behavior, vehicle condition, and even the weather all play a part in influencing trucking crashes throughout Nevada. Understanding some of the specific elements that are most commonly associated with truck accidents could help keep drivers, passengers, and pedestrians safe.
An FMCSA causation study analyzed approximately 120,000 truck accidents over an almost two-year period and identified the following as common factors leading to large truck accidents:
Driver Fatigue and Distraction
Driver fatigue caused by long hours of driving without a break can lead to the driver falling asleep at the wheel. It can also cause sluggish reflexes, which all can have devastating consequences.
Driver distraction has also been shown to be an important factor in trucking accidents. Checking cell phones, or even changing the radio station, can take the driver’s focus away from driving and lead to accidents.
Poor Truck Maintenance
Trucks should be properly maintained to avoid potential problems. Faulty equipment leads to serious accidents. Nearly 30% of all large truck accidents involve some type of truck equipment failure. Manufacturing mistakes can cause issues like defective tires, absent or faulty warning devices, and other issues that can raise the risk for a crash. Failing to properly maintain a large truck, however, is the most common cause of equipment failure. Although truck drivers and trucking companies are required by the FMCSA to perform pre-trip inspections as well as regular maintenance and additional inspections throughout the year, these regulations are often ignored. Common types of truck equipment failure that result in an increased crash risk include:
- Brake failure
- Defective or worn tires
- Malfunctioning side or rear lighting
- Steering problems
- Faulty trailer attachments
If cargo hasn’t been properly secured, a shift in weight can change the balance of the trailer and result in the trailer jackknifing or the whole truck rolling over, which could cause serious injuries to anyone on the road. Proper loading and load securement regulations are outlined in the FMCSA driver’s handbook. Unfortunately, these rules are not always followed, and large truck accidents are a result. Ensuring that each load is properly positioned, within weight limits, and adequately secured is the responsibility of loaders, truckers, and trucking companies alike. When these individuals are negligent, overweight or unstable trucks and shifting loads become a recipe for disaster.
Unsafe driving practices, such as speeding, tailgating, frequent lane changes, failure to use turn signals, and other behaviors, can have deadly consequences. The FMCSA reports that a speeding truck is a factor in approximately 25% of large truck crashes, and 45% of large truck rollovers. Alarmingly, nearly 17% of truckers who are involved in an accident have a prior speeding conviction.
Tight deadlines and the fact that truckers are paid by the number of miles they cover are common reasons that drivers speed. At 65 mph, a fully loaded large truck takes approximately 525 feet to come to a complete stop. That is almost the equivalent to the length of two football fields. At 55 mph, the stopping distance is reduced to 335 feet. Many trucks travel at speeds in excess of 75 mph on America’s roadways, making stopping in the event of an emergency nearly impossible.
Trucks weigh almost 20 times more than a normal passenger vehicle, and large truck crashes often leave serious injuries, death, and destruction in their wake.
Although only about 3% of large truck crashes involve a trucker who is under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, driver impairment is still a very real issue. The most common type of driver impairment a truck accident lawyer in Las Vegas comes across is not caused by the use of alcohol or illegal drugs, but prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs instead. In fact, their use is associated with about 18% of all large truck crashes.
According to the FMCSA, an alarming 87% of large truck accidents are caused by truck driver error. An overwhelming shortage of qualified truck drivers in the United States has resulted in the accumulation of truckers who are inexperienced, overworked, and unfamiliar with their routes. Approximately 38% of large truck crashes involve a trucker whose decision-making skills were a factor.