Any driver who has ever been riding down the highway and suddenly sees a huge 18-wheeler tractor-trailer approaching can attest to how intimidating and frightening driving alongside one of these vehicles can be. The massive amount of damage trucks can cause in accidents is often catastrophic and the results for victims are often fatal. Victims who survive these crashes are often left with permanent and life-changing disabilities.
Knowing what the most common causes of truck accidents can help other vehicle drivers lower their risks of being a truck accident victim. If you do find yourself in this situation, or your family has lost a loved one in a tractor-trailer crash, contact a truck accident lawyer to find out what your legal options may be.
Causes of Fatal Trucking Accidents
One of the largest and most comprehensive truck accident studies was conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency examined data of all the truck accidents that occurred in this country over a 33 month period. There were approximately 120,000 fatal trucking crashes that involved at least one tractor-trailer.
The majority of these fatal crashes were due to one of three reasons:
- The truck driver rear-ended the vehicle in front of them
- The truck driver lost control of the truck
- The truck driver drove out of his or her lane of travel
In accidents where the truck driver was at fault, the study found that almost 40 percent of those crashes occurred because of a decision that the truck driver made that resulted in the crash. This included the truck driver following other vehicles too closely, the truck driver was speeding, or the truck driver incorrectly estimated the speed other vehicles were traveling.
Approximately 25 percent of these fatal crashes were caused by the truck driver failing to recognize. This was caused by factors such as distracted driving behaviors or just not paying attention to the road.
Just over 10 percent of these fatal crashes were caused by non-performance on the truck driver’s part. This was due to medical emergency incidents or the driver falling asleep behind the wheel. And fewer than 10 percent of accidents were caused by the performance of the driver behind the wheel, including not being able to control the truck or overcompensation in steering.
The study found there were multiple other factors that are also often present in fatal truck crashes, including:
- Brake issues
- Driving through a required stop, such as stop sign, traffic light, or crosswalk
- Driving too fast for road or traffic conditions
- Inadequate surveillance
- Over-the-counter drug abuse
- Prescription drug abuse
- Problems with the road
- Unfamiliar with the road
Even if the truck driver is at fault for the accident, there are often multiple parties who will ultimately be responsible for the damages that victims and their families suffer from trucking accidents. These can include the trucking company, the freight company who loaded the vehicle or even a truck part manufacturer if there was some type of defect that resulted in the crash.