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Common Causes of Truck Accidents

Florida Truck Accident Attorneys

Our Florida Truck Accident Attorneys Explain the Main Causes of Tractor Trailer Crashes

Here are examples of how the FMCSA categorizes “critical” or causative reasons assigned to truck drivers

  • Non-performance: Driver fell asleep, disabled by heart attack or seizure, or disabled for another reason.
  • Recognition: Driver inattention, distracted by inside or outside factors, failed to observe the situation.
  • Decision: Driving too fast for conditions, misjudged speed of other vehicles, followed too closely.
  • Performance: Driver panicked, overcompensated, or exercised poor directional control.

18 wheeler truck fallen over

Statistics of Truck Drivers Involved in Crashes 

Like all accidents, truck crashes can be caused by a variety of factors and circumstances. If you or a loved one were involved in a crash with a large commercial truck or vehicle, our Florida truck accident attorneys can help. According to trucking accident statistics:

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other federal agencies that monitor these statistics report that truck accident fatalities increased by almost 1% in 2018, reaching their highest level in 45 years and accounting for 11% of total motor vehicle accident deaths. On contrast, overall motor vehicle fatalities in 2018 declined by 2.4% from the previous year.  
  • Truck drivers may make poor decisions about, for example, changing lanes, yielding the right of way, following too closely, or exceeding the speed limit. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says that speeding remains the number one cause of fatal truck crashes,  even though truckers who speed are getting ticketed more often.
  • The same poor decisions may be made by passenger car drivers and other motorists on the road. Some NHTSA studies indicate that in as many as 80% of car-truck collisions, blame was assigned to passenger vehicle drivers. (In 10% of the accidents studied, fault was attributed to both car and truck drivers.) In January 2020, the FMCSA announced its launch of an updated Large Truck Crash Causation Study, its first since 2006.
  • While drunk driving can be a factor in large truck crashes, the NHTSA reports that, in 2018, only 3% of truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration level beyond the legal limit of .08 grams per deciliter. Alcohol impairment accounted for 28% of all motor vehicle fatalities that year.
  • In contrast, looking at other kinds of vehicles involved in fatal crashes that year, the percentage of drivers over the legal blood alcohol limit was 21% for drivers of passenger cars, 19% for drivers of light trucks, and 25% for motorcyclists.

Our Florida Truck Accidents Attorneys Identify Common Causes of Wrecks

The NHTSA and the FMCSA recognize that all motor vehicle crashes are complex events, usually involving two or more vehicles, and influenced by such elements as driver training and experience, vehicle design and manufacture, adherence to safety and maintenance recommendations, and road and weather conditions. Below are some of the most common causes of truck wrecks that our Florida truck accident attorneys handle. 

Unsafe Lane Changes

On I-10, I-95 and other major highways throughout Florida, commercial truck accidents are a routine occurrence. Many of these accidents are the result of unsafe lane changes, with truck drivers merging suddenly and unexpectedly in front of (or into) other vehicles.

These unsafe maneuvers often leave other drivers with no place to go. In many cases, they force other drivers to slam on their brakes or swerve out of the way, but even these efforts will often not be enough to avoid a dangerous collision. As a result, drivers and passengers routinely suffer serious injuries in these types of accidents, and many endure a lifetime of pain and suffering.

Brake Failure, Tires and Other Vehicle Problems

Brake failure, blown tires, and other mechanical or parts breakdowns that contribute to large truck crashes most often happen because big trucking companies fail to follow federal safety rules for regular truck inspection, repair and maintenance. Trucking companies must keep meticulous records of the dates and nature of these inspections.

Vehicle-related factors were coded for 5% of the large trucks involved in fatal crashes in a 2017 study, compared with 3% of the passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes. “Other Working Vehicle” (2%) and “Tires” (1%) were the most common vehicle-related factors for large trucks in fatal crashes.

In addition, trucks transporting hazardous materials onboard can play a large role in catastrophic accidents, spilling toxic and flammable materials that may not have been loaded and secured safely. In June 2017, in 3,282 U.S. inspections by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the top five violations related to cargo securement were:

  1. No or improper load securement (423)
  2. Failure to secure vehicle equipment (379)
  3. Leaking, spilling, blowing, falling cargo (281)
  4. Insufficient tiedowns to prevent forward movement for load not blocked by header board, bulkhead or cargo (256)
  5. Failure to secure load (178)

Truck safety advocates recommend that truck companies purchase new trucks that are equipped with antilock braking systems and load-proportioning brake valves. There is substantial evidence that antilock brakes prevent wheel lockup and skidding, as well as directional control. But CVSA inspections have found that warning lights for antilock brake malfunctions often fail.

And even with good brakes, it takes a large truck 40% longer to stop than an average car: about 335 feet – or a little longer than a football field.

Traffic Flow

Traffic jams increase the chance of a truck accident

The kind of traffic congestion found on Interstate 95 in Florida is a good example of how a previous accident or traffic jam can become a recipe for disaster for trucks and passenger cars, especially when traffic must be diverted to another lane or gawkers slow to see what happened.

When traffic is stopped suddenly, rear-end collisions are rampant. In the 2017 NHTSA analysis of large truck crashes, trucks were struck in the rear about three times as often as were other vehicles (22% compared to 7%).  Other perils of traffic flow included unsafe passing, failure to merge safely, changing lanes suddenly, and misjudgment of a truck’s speed or a trucker’s reaction time.

Another factor that affects traffic flow is day of week and time of day, when different patterns of speed and congestion are present. About 35% of all fatal truck crashes in 2017 occurred at night, between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. when visibility may have been hampered.  The majority of fatal truck crashes (83%) in 2017 occurred on weekdays, when streets and highways across the country must be shared with cars transporting people to work or school or other daily activities.


Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drug Use

While a truck driver under the influence of alcohol is rare in a large truck crash, prescription and over-the-counter drugs are major causes of tragic trucking accidents. One study indicates that prescription drug use is an “associated factor” in 28.7% of truck crashes, even though federal regulations for drivers of commercial motor vehicles prohibit use of anti-seizure medications, methadone, amphetamines, and narcotic and other habit-forming drugs.

Large truck drivers involved in fatal crashes rarely have high blood alcohol concentrations (BACs). Truck drivers are subject to strict government regulations concerning drinking and driving. Three percent of fatally injured large truck drivers in 2018 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, down from 17 percent in 1982. In comparison, 19 percent of passenger vehicle drivers in 2018 fatal crashes had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, down from 51 percent in 1982.

One of the challenges in identifying drug use in truck crashes and enforcing rules is that medications used for depression or anxiety, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and many other common conditions have unanticipated side effects that can have a disastrous impact on a driver’s performance. The FMCSA continues to propose ways to prevent drivers on drugs or alcohol from taking the wheel of a commercial vehicle.  In February 2014, new rules were published in the Federal Register that, subject to public comment, would establish a federal database of truck drivers who refuse or fail to take drug and alcohol tests.

Current rules require truck drivers to take regular random drug tests, and recent analysis of 150,000 urine tests by the Alliance for Driver Safety and Security found that 94% of the truck drivers tested were drug free. However, in June 2019 the group testified before a U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on Highways and Transit that use of amphetamines and cocaine continues, opioid use is on the rise, and marijuana is becoming increasingly popular as states legalize its use.

Roadway Problems

damaged roadAccording to the Truck Safety Coalition, more than a fourth of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and a third of our major roads are in desperate need of repair. Poor road conditions cost motorists billions of dollars a year in repairs an operating costs. Worse, uneven pavements, potholes, sharp curves, unmarked intersections and confusing signage can offer high crash potential for an 80,000 pound tractor-trailer traveling at high speed.

NHTSA analyses of 2018 truck crashes indicate that about 57% of all fatal crashes occurred in rural areas, where road conditions are not always optimal.  Twenty-six percent of these fatal truck crashes occurred on interstates and freeways and 5 percent. 

Let the Florida Truck Wreck Attorneys at Searcy Law Manage Your Claim

If you were injured in a commercial truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation for accident-related losses. This compensation may include the damage to your vehicle, a portion of your outstanding medical bills, and/or future medical expenses, as well as loss of income, pain and suffering, and various other financial and non-financial losses. Contact our firm today and learn how we can help. 

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Posted By: Samantha Saundry