Common Reasons Truck Accidents Happen and How to Avoid Them
Truck accidents occur at an alarmingly high rate. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that, during one recent year, 104,000 suffered injuries and 3,921 died in the U.S. in crashes involving commercial motor vehicles.
During that same year, in West Virginia, 47 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes on our state's roads, comprising 10.4 percent of all vehicles involved in fatal accidents.
The reasons why accidents occur can be hard to understand, especially for those who are severely injured or lose a loved one in a truck accident. While some truck accidents occur due to factors that are beyond human control, the vast majority of these crashes are entirely preventable. Here is a look into how truck accidents happen and how to avoid them.
Why Truck Accidents Happen
Tractor-trailer accidents happen for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, they are caused by driver error. Some of the most common causes of truck accidents include:
|Truck driver distraction - Truck drivers may be distracted by a number of things, ranging from outdoor scenery, a passenger, food or drink, the radio or - most commonly - a cell phone or other mobile device. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has taken steps to reduce the number of distracted truck drivers on the road by placing a strict ban on the use of cell phones by truck drivers while operating their rigs. The FMCSA states that using a cell phone is prohibited for commercial drivers. Those drivers who violate the rules may face civil penalties if caught.|
|Truck driver fatigue - Perhaps even more dangerous than a trucker driving while distracted is one operating a vehicle while overly fatigued. The S. Department of Transportation reports that nearly 4,000 people die in truck accidents each year, and that fatigue is a leading factor in those crashes. Hours-of-service requirements help to prevent fatigued driving. Still, some drivers or their employers push these limits in violation of federal regulations.|
|Mechanical failures - Sometimes, truck accidents are caused because the parts on a truck fail to operate as they should. For example, a tire blowout can cause a truck to run off of the road or, in the worst situations, roll over. Defective brakes on a truck can lead to a horrific override accident, where a truck loses its ability to stop before completely overtaking another vehicle.|
|Cargo loading errors - Loading cargo incorrectly can also contribute to an accident in the event that the cargo suddenly shifts, forcing the trailer of a truck to move or tip. If the cargo is not properly secured and falls off the truck into the road, it can also cause a crash.|
The above list of truck accident causes is not exhaustive. Truck accidents may also be caused by poor weather conditions, drinking and driving, objects or animals in the road and more.
How to Avoid Truck Accidents
Some types of accidents are impossible to avoid, regardless of how safe of a driver you are. However, you can reduce your risk of being involved in a truck accident by driving defensively.
[su_note note_color="#edf0f0" radius="0"]
- Putting away any distractions within your vehicle
- Driving at a safe speed
- Paying attention to other drivers' behaviors
- Controlling your own road rage
- Staying clear of trucks' blind spots and "no zones"
- Following at a safe distance behind a truck
- Giving large trucks plenty of room when changing lanes
- Being patient on the road and never trying to pass a large truck or turn in front of one if it is not safe to do so
- Avoiding heavily trafficked routes when possible
- Avoiding driving in bad weather when possible
- Following all traffic laws and adhering to posted traffic signs and signals
- Always driving while sober and well-rested.[/su_note]
You can also minimize the risk of being in an accident by ensuring that your vehicle is in good condition. You should perform regular maintenance. For instance, if you notice your tires are low, put air in them, or get new tires if the tread appears to be worn. Don't wait several years to get your brakes replaced. Make sure to check your fluids on a routine basis.
[su_column size="4/5"]If you notice an unsafe truck driver, take some mental notes about the type of truck and the license plate. You can report the truck driver to the proper authorities to help keep others on the road safe.[/su_column]
Getting Legal Help When a Collision with a Truck Happens
Unlike car accident claims, truck accident claims are unique in terms of who might be held liable. Rather than one party who may be at fault - as is the case in most car crashes - truck accidents can bring multiple potentially liable parties to the table, including the truck driver, trucking company, truck manufacturer, distributor or shipper and a third-party driver.
[su_note note_color="#f59f1d" text_color="#ffffff" radius="0"]Because of the complexities of many truck accident claims, it is important that you speak to a lawyer following a truck accident.[/su_note]
A West Virginia truck accident lawyer can guide you through everything that you need to know about tractor-trailer crashes, including who might be liable, how to file your claim and what damages you may be entitled to recover.
At Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC, our Charleston accident attorneys will do everything that we can to help you. Contact us now by using our online form and schedule your free case consultation.