Common Causes of Truck Accidents
When a passenger vehicle and a commercial truck collide, the consequences can be catastrophic and even fatal due to the sheer size and power of a tractor-trailer.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident in Illinois, you know the terrible hardship that it places upon your family. The pain is physical, emotional, and financial. But there is help.
Our Illinois attorneys are leaders in the legal field with a hard earned reputation for handling trucking cases. It is this knowledge and experience that instills confidence in our clients. We are fully invested in every case we handle. If you or a loved one has been involved in a trucking accident, our attorneys litigate trucking cases in all parts of Illinois.
There are many causes of truck accidents, but according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), some of the most common causes are truck driver fatigue, speeding, and the use of prescription drugs. The transportation industry is a competitive business and the pressure to deliver frequently results in fatal collisions.
Driver Coercion is a recognized cause of collisions. Coercion occurs when a motor carrier, shipper, receiver, or transportation intermediary threatens to withhold work from, take employment action against, or punish a driver for refusing to operate in violation of certain provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). Coercion may be found to have taken place even if a violation has not occurred. An example of coercion is when a motor carrier terminates a driver for refusing to accept a load that would require the driver to violate the hours of service requirements.
Truck Accident Statistics
Truck accident statistics highlight how an accident involving a commercial vehicle differs from a passenger vehicle. For example, a speeding accident involving two passenger cars is not the same as an accident where an 80,000-pound truck is involved. The weight and mass of the truck, combined with the type and volume of the cargo, all play a significant role.
Driver fatigue, impaired driving and improperly trained drivers are responsible for a number of crashes every year. Statistically speaking, a combined total of 27% of accidents were caused by either lack of driver training or driver fatigue. With approximately 3.2 million truck drivers in the U.S., accidents are bound to happen.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a comprehensive study in 2007, which revealed that approximately 5,000 people die every year on U.S. highways due to truck accidents. These accidents injure nearly 150,000 people. Excessive speed was the contributing factor in 18% of crashes.
Truck Accidents Caused By Passenger Vehicle Drivers
Truck drivers not only have to worry about their own driving abilities, but also the driving skills of the other drivers on the road. There are extra precautions all drivers should take when the traffic flow includes semi-trucks or trailers.
A few of the most common causes of accidents by passenger vehicle drivers include:
Changing lanes abruptly or improper merging in front of a semi. Large trucks need much more time and distance to decrease their speed than a regular car. Swerving in front of a truck driver can easily lead to an accident due to a limited response time for the truck driver.
Unsafe passing. On highways, it may be tough to gauge how much room there is when trying to pass a semi. Drivers should always avoid passing on hills or curves and look for plenty of room to pass a truck safely without there being a need to immediately brake.
Driving in a blind spot. If you’ve driven behind a semi-truck before, then you may have seen a sticker that says “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” Take this seriously. If you are in their blind spot, they may have limited or zero visibility. It’s never a good idea to follow another vehicle so closely at any time, but a large truck needs even more room to maneuver.
Allow for wide turns. On city streets, it can be tough for trucks to make sharp turns. Even turns deemed “normal” for a passenger car can be a challenge for a semi due to its length. A driver should never try to race by a truck trying to turn first or block the area around the perimeter of where it wants to turn.
Truck Accidents Caused by Commercial Truck Drivers
There is specific training a person must complete before becoming certified as a commercial truck driver. Even when a truck driver earns these credentials, extra safety precautions are still necessary due to the size and weight of trucks they will be driving.
Some trucks also contain cargo that may be hazardous if spilled on the road or involved in an accident. There is a lot to consider as a commercial truck driver, so it’s important that safety remains a top priority.
Common causes of truck accidents from commercial drivers include:
Truck Driver Tiredness and Fatigue
Federal regulations limit the amount of time a commercial truck driver can log driving per week. There is a maximum 11-hour driving limit allowed for truckers carrying cargo after a consecutive 10 hours off duty. This is to help prevent driver fatigue and give drivers a chance to get the adequate amount of sleep or rest they need. Often scheduled routes included hundreds, if not thousands, of miles, and this can wear on even the most experienced drivers.
Poor or Improper Truck Maintenance
Trucking companies are responsible for proper maintenance and upkeep of their vehicles. All maintenance checks must be documented and a truck company can be held responsible for a trucking accident if faulty equipment is found to be to blame. This equipment malfunction can mean anything from faulty brakes to tire blowouts.
Just like any other vehicle, equipment failure can occur due to seasonal elements, poorly constructed roads or a variety of other factors. Inclement weather conditions such as ice or snow can be extremely dangerous for large trucks on the road due to shift in traffic patterns and a possible inability to brake.
Truck drivers spend long hours on the road, often in remote locations, which can lead drivers to want to multitask. Even when there is less traffic on the road, truck drivers need to focus their full attention on the road, and any distractions become hazardous. One of the most common causes of distracted driving is operating a mobile device while at the wheel. Talking, texting or even entering directions into a GPS system are all enough for a driver to take their eyes off the road long enough to put themselves and others in danger.
Texting Truck Drivers
In many states, texting while driving is against the law, and it is banned nationwide for drivers of commercial trucks. Despite the law, this doesn’t keep some drivers from continuing to text while driving during their shifts. Texting while driving increases the chances for an accident significantly. The increase of risk is also heightened when texting is used in combination with a fatigued driver or when a driver is navigating an unfamiliar road.
Speeding Truck Drivers
All drivers who exceed the speed limit put others on the road at risk because they are not driving with the flow of traffic. This is a high cause for concern with truckers especially since the vehicle they’re driving weighs nearly 20 times more than the average passenger vehicle. Commercial truck drivers often speed because they are on strict timelines.
Unsafe Driving Practices
Truck drivers log thousands of miles every week. Long stretches of time on the road can become monotonous and may cause some drivers to become less safe with how they operate their vehicles. In addition to speeding, unsafe driving practices include:
• Following another vehicle too closely
• Road rage
• Failure to check for blind spots
• Frequent lane changes
• Failure to use turn signals
Other Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Inadequate or improper training
If a driver has not had the proper training in how to handle a commercial truck, defensive driving and other safety elements, then the driver will pose a hazard on the road.
Unfamiliarity with roads or inexperience driving
Any person traveling an unknown road can face driving challenges. Now imagine if that person was driving an 80,000-pound vehicle for the first time and didn’t realize how narrow, curvy or rough a certain road was. The combination of circumstances can be disastrous.
Driving a commercial truck is far different than navigating traffic in a passenger car. The amount of cargo these trucks carry have a huge impact. There are regulations that determine how much weight a commercial truck can carry because, if overloaded, it can be detrimental to the trucker’s driving and the vehicle itself. Tires can experience blowouts or the truck could jackknife due to too much weight. Improperly secured cargo is also dangerous and can lead to injury and possible fatal accidents.
Truck Accident Causes
Road construction projects can cause delays in traffic. These literal roadblocks often limit drivers to one lane of traffic. Some drivers may try to maneuver around the construction by driving on the shoulder or in the median, but doing so can easily cause an accident to occur.
Weather and Road Conditions
Not all highways or roadways are ideal for driving, especially for large trucks. Unpaved or pothole-ridden roads can make it extra difficult for drivers. Narrow lanes or highways without shoulders can become hazardous. Adding poor weather conditions, such as sleet or snow, can further put all drivers at risk.
Hire a Trucking Attorney with Experience
If you’ve been involved in a truck accident, you want to have a lawyer who has experience with these specific type of cases. Trucking accidents are handled much differently than accidents that involve only passenger vehicles.
In addition to the truck driver, the trucking company is often also involved. Our Illinois attorneys travel all over the State of Illinois and have the legal skills and expertise necessary to fully investigate trucking accidents and determine what a fair compensation is for victims of trucking accidents.
We know trucking law. Attorneys from across the country refer trucking accident cases to our Joliet, Illinois, based firm due to our legal reputation. Joliet is located at the intersection of I-80 and I-55, two of the major interstates in the United States. It is also home to one of the world’s largest intermodal facilities and has one of the highest concentrations of truck traffic anywhere in the world. If you have sustained a trucking accident injury near Joliet, or anywhere in the State of Illinois, contact our attorneys today.
There is no obligation and a case evaluation is free. We want to help you seek the compensation and justice you deserve.