Top Causes of Truck Accidents
There are many potential causes of trucking accidents, and it’s important to go into them because truck accidents are more likely to cause death than those involving smaller vehicles. This is because large trucks can weigh twenty to thirty times more than smaller vehicles. In addition, due to their large profile, smaller vehicles can underride trucks, causing severe injury or death.
In 2013 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported large truck crash statistics from previous years. In 2011, there were over 273,000 such crashes. Of these there were 3,341 fatalities, 60,000 injuries, and 210,000 crashes with property damage only. The estimated costs of these accidents was over $87 billion.
Causes of Trucking Accidents
Trucking accidents can be caused by operator error, weather/road conditions, and vehicle conditions. In each of these categories one or more factors may be present. Let’s examine each category in detail.
In the category of operator error many factors may be present such as poor driver training, poor vision, impairment from drugs or alcohol, fatigue, driving longer than allowed, poor judgement, distraction, blind spots, unfamiliarity with the road, and the like. According to a study conducted in 2007 by the FMCSA, four categories of operator error for accidents involving large trucks were found:
- An error in performance such as overcompensation, poor directional control, or panic.
- Non-performance such as falling asleep, being disabled by a medical event such as a heart attack or seizure, or being physically impaired for another reason.
- Poor decision-making such as misjudging the speed of other cars and trucks, following too closely behind other vehicles, or driving too fast for the road conditions.
- Poor recognition meaning that the driver may have been distracted by something either inside or outside of the vehicle, was inattentive, or failed to assess the situation correctly.
Consider these statistics to understand how many trucking accidents are caused by operator error: 23% of the accidents studied in this report were attributed to the driver traveling too fast for the conditions; 22% were attributed to being unfamiliar with the roadway; 17% were caused by over-the-counter drug use; 14% to inadequate surveillance; and 13% were caused by fatigue.
Also in this category are accidents caused by operator error of drivers of other vehicles involved in the accident such as:
- Pulling in front of a trucker too quickly or too closely.
- Driving to the right of a truck that is making a right turn.
- Unsafe passing.
- Driving between large trucks.
- Improper merging into traffic causing a trucker to swerve or brake quickly.
- Making a left turn in front of an oncoming truck.
- Driving in a trucker’s blind spots.
When the weather is hazardous or road conditions are even a little off from normal, accidents with large trucks are much more likely due to their size, weight, required stopping distances, and their shape. As an example, due to their size large trucks require 20 to 40 percent more stopping distance than a smaller vehicle would need. In slippery conditions this is even more of a problem.
In this category according to the FMCSA study, 20% of the accidents studied were caused by roadway problems. Weather and road conditions that can cause trucking accidents might be:
- Snow accumulation that causes poor visibility and slippery roads
- Icy roads that make roads slippery and dangerous
- Rain/downpours that cause poor visibility, hydroplaning or slick roads when stopping quickly
- High cross-winds that can make it difficult for large trucks to stay on the road or in their own lane
- Poor visibility due to the rising/setting sun and darkness at night
- Road construction
- Traffic congestion
- Suddenly stopping traffic/traffic jam
- Large potholes or improperly maintained roads
Various vehicle conditions can also be to blame. For example, according to the FMCSA report mentioned above, 29% of the accidents were caused by brake problems. Here are some vehicle conditions that can occur:
- Shifting cargo in the back of the truck
- Poor or malfunctioning brakes
- Loss of brakes
- Stuck gas pedal
- Poor visibility due to improperly functioning windshield wipers or lack of washer fluid.
- Poor tire traction
- Tire blowout
Were You Involved in a Trucking Accident in Alabama?
If you were involved in a trucking accident and feel it may be due to operator error or some other preventable cause you may need legal advice as to know to proceed. Contact us at Haygood Cleveland Pierce & Thompson or by phone at (334) 821-3892 to speak to someone about your situation and see what we can do for you.