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The Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents

It would be difficult to drive anywhere in Indiana without encountering a truck, since approximately 15.5 million of them operate in the U.S.

Quite frankly, we need these beasts of burden to deliver our food, merchandise and supplies. Trucks transport 72.5% of all domestic tonnage shipped in the United States. The industry employs 7.9 million people, and commercial trucks generate billions of dollars in federal and state highway-user taxes ($45.7 billion in 2018).

Unfortunately, the very attribute that makes trucks indispensable is the thing that makes them dangerous: their size. Semi-trucks weigh from 10,000 to 80,000 pounds and average 72 feet in length, 13.5 feet in height, and 8.5 feet in width. Far smaller and lighter cars and motorcycles do not fare well in collisions with these titans of the road. 

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 4,136 people died in large truck crashes in 2018, a number 31% higher than in 2009. In Indiana alone, of the vehicle accidents that occurred in 2018, 14,877 involved a large truck. Of these, 125 were fatal crashes and 1,860 were injury crashes.

If you have been involved in an accident with a truck, you will need the help of an experienced truck accident lawyer to help you get the money you need to cover your medical bills, car damage, lost wages, and more. If you miss your shot at securing compensation, the two-year statute of limitations will pass and you won’t be able to pursue this avenue again.

Common Causes of Truck Accidents:

Speeding: 

Truckers are not supposed to speed, but because they are under enormous pressure to deliver their cargo quickly, they often do. In 2018 truck drivers were issued 146,945 tickets for speeding violations, an increase of 7.8% from the previous year. Now imagine all of the drivers who were guilty of speeding, but did not get pulled over. Speeding is such an issue that many newer trucks weighing over 26,001 pounds are fitted with speed limiters set for 65 mph. Older and lighter trucks do not have these kinds of safety features.

Blind spots:

Semi-trucks have huge blind spots. There are certain danger zones where if a car or motorcycle happens to be there, the truck driver is literally blind to their existence. This is why you may have noticed bumper stickers reading, “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” 

Four blind spots

  • Left side, under the cab mirror
  • Right side, under the cab mirror and extending out
  • In front of the truck cab, at least 20 feet
  • Behind the trailer, at least 30 feet

Careless lane changes:

Lane changes can be dangerous because of blind spots. The road may look clear to the truck driver, but they may not have seen a car or motorcycle in the wrong place. A collision on the highway could crush the smaller vehicle or force it off the road completely.

Passing vehicles on two lane roads:

Trucks don’t drive only on interstate highways; they need to actually deliver their loads at the ends of their journeys. Most fatal crashes involving large trucks occur in rural areas. Truckers may try to pass as soon as they get a chance on two lane roads. If another vehicle suddenly appears driving towards them as they are passing, it is extremely difficult for them to maneuver their huge vehicle back into their own lane quickly. Because of their heavy weight, they are not able to accelerate as quickly as cars either. 

Failing to stop for yellow lights:

This is another problem caused by the weight and size of the semi-truck. In good weather, fully loaded trucks need long stopping distances — almost the length of two football fields, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Because of this, and because they can’t accelerate quickly, drivers have to make quick decisions about what to do at yellow lights. Sometimes they bet on the hope that they will make it through the intersection before the light turns red. Sometimes they bet wrong. 

Tailgating:

Drivers are anxious to meet their deadlines, so they sometimes try to “encourage” the vehicles in front of them to speed up by following too closely. If the driver ahead has to hit the brakes for any reason, the truck behind simply can’t stop in time and that causes a rear end collision. Remember — semi-trucks need 20% – 40% more distance than cars to stop. They need even more distance if the roads are wet or icy or if their brakes are not in good condition.

Wide turns: 

Because of their size, big rigs often need to block a lane of traffic by swinging out into a wide turn. In some cases, car drivers who are not paying attention end up trapped in the inside right turn lane, a dangerous situation. In other cases, truck drivers make wide turns without checking their blind spots or without signaling. 

Fatigue:

Much of distracted driving is due to fatigue, and fatigue is a huge danger for truck drivers and those sharing the road with them. The government is aware of the risks of dangerous driving, so commercial truck drivers are expected to follow strict rules called Hours of Service Regulations. These rules include limiting driving time to a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.  Drivers must also take a 30-minute break when they have driven for a period of 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. 

However, because truck drivers pass through time zones and have varied shifts, they aren’t necessarily able to force themselves to instantly fall asleep when they are off duty.  Their sleep is of poor quality. Additionally, drivers who don’t want to miss shifts because of illness may be tempted to take over-the-counter medications that cause sleepiness. According to a study from the NIH, fatigue can cause slower response times, attention failures, and poor decision making, all of which could cause accidents. 

Other causes:

Just as with car accidents, the causes of truck accidents seem endless. They include: 

  • Distracted driving
  • Mechanical failures
  • Poorly loaded cargo
  • Driver inexperience
  • Poor road conditions or visibility
  • And yes — other drivers

If you have been injured or lost a loved one in an accident with a truck, call 317-401-8626 today or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with the seasoned Indiana truck accident lawyers at Crossen Law Firm.

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