Accidents involving commercial vehicles are some of the most devastating that occur on the roadways. Big rig trucks often weigh in excess of 80,000 pounds when they are fully loaded, which is 20 to 30 times heavier than a regular passenger vehicle. Large commercial trucks are also much taller and wider than other vehicles, with higher ground clearance that can sometimes result in smaller vehicles and motorcycles sliding underneath them during a collision.
With all of these factors in play, it comes as little surprise that, when big rig trucks are involved in collisions with smaller vehicles, occupants of the other vehicle usually take the brunt of it. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 68% of those killed in truck accidents are occupants of cars and other vehicles, 17% are occupants of the commercial truck, and another 14% are motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
What Causes Commercial Trucking Accidents?
In 2017 (the last year we have full records for), more than 4,100 individuals were killed in large truck accidents, and more than 50,000 individuals sustained serious injuries. There are several reasons these types of accidents occur, here are six of the most common:
Drowsy driving is far more common than most people realize. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drowsy or fatigued driving is a contributing factor in as many as 6,000 fatal crashes each year. The CDC goes on to say that commercial drivers are among the groups who are most likely to drive while drowsy. Truck drivers put in long hours over-the-road, often during evening and overnight hours when it is harder to stay awake. To make matters worse, trucking companies typically impose unrealistic deadlines for drivers to deliver their cargo. This often forces them to make a choice between staying on schedule or pulling over and getting the rest they need.
Another way that truck drivers try to stay on schedule is by driving over the speed limit and other aggressive driving behaviors. Examples include tailgating, refusing to yield the right of way, erratic and unsafe lane changes, running red lights, and dangerous or illegal passing maneuvers. By driving aggressively, truckers may be able to save a few minutes here and there, but by doing so, they put themselves and others they share the roads with in greater danger.
Drug and Alcohol Use
In order to deal with the stress of the job or to try to stay awake, some truckers turn to alcohol and various types of illicit or prescription drugs. It is widely known that substances like these can adversely affect a motorist’s driving behaviors. Some intoxicated motorists drive more aggressively, while others get tired, have slower reaction times, and sometimes even fall asleep at the wheel.
Overloaded/Unevenly Loaded Trucks
There are industry rules that must be followed with regards to loading cargo onto commercial vehicles. Unfortunately, shipping companies and others who are responsible for loading the trucks do not always follow these guidelines. Some tractor-trailers are loaded beyond their weight limits in an effort to deliver more cargo in the same shipment and save money. At other times, the trucks are loaded unevenly or otherwise improperly in a rush to save time. When this happens, it greatly increases the chances that the truck could flip over or tip to its side, resulting in severe and sometimes catastrophic injuries.
Vehicle/Vehicle Part Failure
Semi-trucks log thousands of miles over-the-road each month. This makes it absolutely critical that these trucks are properly maintained. Sometimes, those in charge of maintenance do not complete all of the required checks in order to keep the truck safe, which can result in an accident if something goes wrong on the road. In other cases, a vehicle or vehicle part can fail because of a faulty or defective product. Examples include brake line failures, computer dashboard malfunctions, and tire blowouts. When this happens, the product manufacturer and other parties within the product’s supply chain may be responsible for the accident.
Texting while driving and other smart phone activity while behind the wheel is rapidly becoming one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents. This is a problem with both commercial truckers and other vehicle drivers, and it is especially dangerous, because when you look down at your phone to send or receive a text, your focus is away from the road. Taking your eyes off of the road for just five seconds (about the minimum amount of time it takes to send a text) at 55 miles per hour is roughly the equivalent of driving blindfolded the entire length of a football field.
There are many ways to get involved in a truck accident. You may also check out our tips on how to avoid trucking accidents.
Injured in a Trucking Accident in Alabama? Call the Experienced Attorneys at Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C. for Legal Help
If you or a loved one was injured a commercial truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. However, you can expect the other side to move aggressively to defend the driver and other potential parties who were at fault. In order to protect your right to be compensated, it is very important to obtain strong legal counsel as early as possible.
If the accident occurred in Alabama, call Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C. today at (251) 260-3815 to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation. You may also send us a message through our web contact form or stop by our Mobile office in person at your convenience.