There are few things more unnerving than driving in between a couple of 80,000 pound tractor-trailers. Granted, this may not happen often, but we have a legitimate reason to fear these highway giants. There are many truck drivers and trucking companies that follow all state and federally mandated rules and follow safe driving practices, but, unfortunately, there are those that do not, and it is the actions of these drivers and/or trucking companies that put all other road users at risk for catastrophic injury or death.
Large Truck Accident Statistics
In 2013, 3,964 people were killed in truck crashes in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 95,000 were injured. Further data for 2013 concludes that large trucks were 22 percent more likely to be involved in fatal multiple-vehicle crashes than passenger vehicles. Additionally, almost 17 percent of all large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had at least one prior speeding conviction, compared to almost 16 percent of passenger car drivers involved in fatal crashes.
In California, there were 4,125 vehicles involved in fatal crashes in 2013. Of these, 249 were large trucks. The only state with more large trucks involved in fatal crashes, in the entire nation, was Texas with 493.
If you, or a loved one, has been injured, or if a loved one has been killed, in a big rig crash as the result of the negligent or reckless actions of the truck driver and/or trucking company, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. A knowledgeable large truck accident attorney can help you understand your rights and choose the best course of action for you and your family.
Common Causes of Tractor Trailer Crashes
Truck drivers are in control of very large and very heavy vehicles, which means they should practice extra caution while on the road, but this is not always the case. When a big rig driver or trucking company is negligent, it is much more likely that an ensuing accident would have devastating results. Examples of such negligence may include:
- Overloaded Truck – There are both state and federal laws specifying how much a large truck can weigh. This is not just one weight, one number, however. There are also laws indicating how the weight is distributed over each axle. These rules are in place to ensure the truck may still be driven safely while protecting the physical integrity of the road. Unfortunately, drivers and/or trucking companies may try to increase profits by squeezing more cargo into the trailer. This can cause issues in overall maneuverability as well as braking, increasing the chances of a serious crash.
- Fatigued Truck Driver – Large truck drivers are required to follow the Hours of Service (HOS) rules, as set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), to make sure they do not drive longer than is safe. When any driver becomes drowsy, their reaction time slows, they get distracted more easily and are more inattentive, and may even fall asleep at the wheel. This, unfortunately, does not stop some drivers, or trucking companies from pressuring their drivers, to break the rules in order to make deliveries more quickly. Faster deliveries mean more money and some may think that that is worth endangering the lives of everyone on the road, when, in reality, they are not just risking the safety of other drivers and passengers on the road, but their own safety as well.
- Underride Accident – Tractor trailers are bigger, heavier, and taller than other vehicles. As such, the risk of crashing under a truck exists. Because of this, trucks are equipped with underride guards in the back and along the sides. Unfortunately, these underride guards are not always installed properly, may be built of shoddy materials, may be damaged, or may not be there at all. Regardless of the cause of an underride collision, if the guards are not up to par, the truck driver or trucking company may be held, at least partially, liable for a victim’s losses.