As the economy recovers from the recession of 2009 and consumer demand grows, more and more trucks are filling our highways, which is a mixed blessing. Just last year, there were over 88,000 injuries and 3,700 fatal accidents involving large trucks on the road, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s latest report. But why exactly are trucks causing so much devastation on the roads? Read on to learn more about the causes of truck accidents, and how to protect yourself legally if you’re involved in a crash.
Top Three Reasons Why Trucks Crash
There are many risk factors to consider when a commercial truck crashes, but the factors all boil down to one basic issue: human error or negligence on the part of the truck operator. Here are some of the FMCSA’s biggest reasons that trucks cause accidents on the road:
- Speeding. This is the number one factor in fatal truck accidents. Over seven percent of all fatal truck accidents in 2014 were caused by excess speed. Speeding is also the leading factor in passenger vehicle fatalities—over 18 percent of all fatal accidents involved excess speed.
- Distracted driving. A close second to speeding as a top cause of fatal accidents, distracted driving happens when the driver takes his or her attention away from the task of operating the vehicle safely—even for just a moment. Answering a phone call or sending a text message, adjusting the radio, eating, or simply failing to pay attention by being lost in thought can all contribute to a devastating accident. The FMCSA statistics pin 6.2 percent of all fatal truck accidents in 2014 on distracted driving.
- Impaired driving. You may be surprised to learn that “impaired” doesn’t just include alcohol or illegal drugs, although they may definitely play a part in an accident. Drivers can be forced to work long, grueling schedules to make freight on time, leading to fatigue-based impairment. Operator fatigue can cause poor judgement, slowed reaction times, and operating mistakes. Fatigue or falling asleep at the wheel is the number one cause of impaired accidents.
In total, speeding, distracted driving, and impaired driving made up over 17 percent of all fatal truck crashes in 2014. That’s 637 fatal accidents that could have been avoided simply by truck operators making better choices.
Other Factors That Cause Accidents
Operator error on the road isn’t always the cause of a large truck accident. There may be other parties that contributed in whole or in part to an accident. The trucking company, service personnel, loading crew, or others can be the cause of an accident, too:
- Improper maintenance. Trucking companies are required to properly service and maintain company equipment. They are also required to maintain adequate service documentation showing that service was performed, and can be held responsible for an accident if such maintenance was not performed or the records haven’t been kept properly. Improper maintenance accidents can involve such things as braking system failures, blowouts from tires that should have been replaced, and more.
- Overloaded or shifting cargo. If the truck is hauling more cargo than it is designed to carry, tires can blow out, brakes can fail, and other hardware can simply break down under the stress. Improper cargo distribution or failure to secure cargo properly in the trailer can also result in a load shift, which can send an 80,000-pound truck careening out of control fast.
Broadly, any person or company involved in a truck accident can also be found responsible if it can be demonstrated to the court that there was a duty of care or a responsibility to act in a certain way, the party failed to fulfill that responsibility, the failure caused or contributed to the accident, and the result was your harm.
Get Legal Help After an Accident
If you or someone you love has been hurt or killed in an accident involving a commercial truck, it’s your legal right to seek compensation from those responsible. Truck accident lawsuits can become complex due to the number of parties involved. Seek legal representation from a firm that’s got experience with commercial truck accidents right away to protect your rights.
Wayne Wright LLP has decades of experience fighting for the rights of those injured in truck accidents. To talk with a skilled attorney who may be able to help your legal situation after an accident in Texas, call us today for a free consultation at 800-237-3334.