Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Despite efforts to further regulate the trucking industry to ensure compliance with existing safety protocols, trucking accidents continue to pose a significant danger to drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists, among others. In 2014 alone, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) reported 3,649 fatal crashes involving a large truck or bus, and 472,000 nonfatal crashes involving a large truck or bus, representing 12.2 and 7.8 percent of total fatal and non-fatal crashes, respectively. In fact, FMSCA data suggests that large truck and bus crashes in 2014 cost an estimated $112 billion in damages. Common sense dictates that the risk of serious injury or death in the event of a trucking accident is much greater than the risks posed by a car accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines a large truck as one with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 lbs. With a vehicle of this weight and size, even minor driving mistakes and issues with the vehicle’s condition can lead to a significant injury accident. Through their annual accident studies, the FMSCA has identified several common factors contributing to trucking accidents nationwide. If you have been injured as the result of a trucking accident, it is likely that your injury was, to some degree, influenced by one of these common trucking accident causes.
Driver-oriented mistakes are by far the most common cause underlying trucking accidents. The FMSCA estimates that 87% of trucking accidents are caused by driver issues.
Legal Drug Use
Prescription and over-the-counter drug use is common among truck drivers. Though prescription and over-the-counter drug use is not illegal, abuse of these substances may lead to an increase in driver error. Certain legal drugs also have substantial side effects with regular use, and may impair the ability of the truck driver to make quick, intelligent decisions on the road.
Speeding on a Roadway
Truck drivers are under a great deal of pressure to get their cargo to their destination on time. If a driver encounters weather or roadway conditions requiring low-speed driving, this can further exacerbate delays. Speeding is the obvious, though unsafe solution. Excessive speeding is a common cause of truck accidents, and the consequences can be worsened by other factors, such as improper loading of cargo (which can lead to the loss of unsecured cargo, tipping over, and further loss of control).
Commercial truck driving is a notoriously fatiguing profession. Federal regulations allow trucking companies to give their drivers 11 hour shifts and up to 70 hours of work in an eight day period. As a result, drivers often suffer from shortened sleep schedules, irregular sleeping patterns, and extended periods of sleep deprivation. To fight the onset of fatigue, drivers may abuse legal or illegal drugs, thus creating additional risks for others. Fatigued drivers also tend to be less observant of their surroundings, have difficulty reacting quickly to obstructions and issues on the road, and may even fall asleep at the wheel.
Lack of Familiarity with the Roadway
A driver’s lack of familiarity with a roadway can easily lead to truck accidents, especially on rural or local roads. Drivers may be unfamiliar with sudden dips, large potholes, sharp turns, and other hazards of the road. If the driver is not operating his or her truck carefully, he/she may not have enough time to react to such hazards before an accident occurs.
Illegal maneuvers account for a large portion of truck accidents nationwide, and though not necessarily illegal, aggressive maneuvers such as tailing another vehicle too closely, or weaving in and out of traffic, are also strongly linked to the incidence of truck accidents. The crux of the issue is that impatient truck drivers tend to cause more accidents.
Vehicle and Environmental Factors
Though vehicular and environmental factors account for only 13% of truck accidents nationwide, in combination with driver error – such as inattentiveness, fatigue, substance abuse, and excessive speeding – these factors can escalate a bad road situation.
Brake failures are surprisingly common, despite the fact that the FMSCA requires that truck drivers inspect their trucks before and after each trip (and despite the fact that regular inspections and maintenance must be conducted). Unfortunately, trucking companies and drivers may fail to comply with inspection regulations, and equipment issues such as brake failure may not be recognized before an accident occurs.
Interrupted Traffic Flow
The interruption of regular traffic flow, such as a congested road, slowdown due to an existing accident on the road, or the existence of a crosswalk, can make it more likely for a trucking accident to occur. Trucks are heavy and rather unwieldy, and as such are prone to accidents when they are forced to come to a sudden stop. Attentive, careful drivers are able to avoid these types of accidents, however, by slowing down at the first sign of interrupted traffic flow.
Severe Weather Conditions
Unexpected bad weather can contribute significantly to the likelihood of a truck accident, especially when the risks presented by these severe weather conditions are further exacerbated by driver-related factors such as speeding and fatigue. Rather than wait out bad weather, some drivers will push through to meet their deadline, creating serious risks for others on the road. If you have been injured in a truck accident, a qualified personal injury attorney can assess your claims and move forward with the claims process. To speak with an experienced Los Angeles truck accident lawyer today, call West Coast Trial Lawyers at (888) 539-9582 for a free consultation.