Many people are aware that large trucks have significant potential to be involved in deadly accidents. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, crashes involving large trucks were responsible for 10 percent of traffic fatalities in the United States in 2009. Given that motor vehicle accidents kill 30,000 to 35,000 people each year, that means that around 3,000 deaths a year may be attributed to large truck accidents.
Research conducted recently by civil engineers at Kansas State University looked into the causes underlying large truck accidents. The engineers found that, in almost three-quarters of the large truck accidents they studied, the truck drivers themselves contributed to the accidents.
The most common way that truck drivers contributed to an accident was by not paying adequate attention to driving tasks. The researchers found that drivers failed to give enough time and focus to tasks like passing other vehicles and changing lanes. Drivers also were faulted for exceeding legal speed limits, tailgating and failing to yield the right of way.
These large vehicles also encountered environmental conditions like falling rain and livestock on the road, which were implicated in 13 percent of large truck accidents. Crashes were caused by vehicle-related problems such as bad brakes and shifting cargo in about 6 percent of the accidents studied.
Despite the potential contributions of adverse driving conditions, 78 percent of the accidents overall happened in good weather in daylight. The time of day when accidents were most likely to occur was the early afternoon, from noon to 3:00 pm. In most cases, the roads where crashes occurred had high speed limits.
In an effort to reduce the rate of large truck accidents, the FMCSA offers guidelines for truckers, which are especially important since so many of these accidents involve driver-related factors. Drivers are urged to get enough rest and to conform strictly to regulations governing hours of service, not trying to put in too many continuous hours on the road. Drivers should be aware of where their rig's blind spots are and plan accordingly for lane changes, since the FMCSA notes that a third of large truck collisions take place with vehicles in a truck's blind zone, where they are not visible in the truck driver's mirrors.
Any traffic accident carries with it the possibility of serious injury or death. When a large truck is involved, the results are likely to be even more devastating. Anyone who is injured on the road or who has lost a loved one in a truck accident should consult with a personal injury attorney to discuss their legal options.