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Like all accidents, truck crashes can be caused by a variety of actors 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:
The NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (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, and road and weather conditions.
NHTSA’s 2014 Traffic Safety Facts reports that 81% of fatal crashes involving large trucks were multiple-vehicle crashes, as opposed to 59% of fatal crashes involving passenger cars. In an earlier study of truck crash causation, the FMCSA found that of large trucks involved in all crashes – both single- and multi-vehicle – 55% of the trucks or their drivers were the “critical reason” for the crash. In two-vehicle crashes, trucks or their drivers were the “critical reason” in 44% of the crashes.
In the same FMCSA study, “associated factors” were identified as elements related to large trucks and their drivers that may have contributed to the crash but were not necessarily the cause:
Operating a truck takes tremendous skill, experience and concentration, and drivers cannot afford to be distracted while behind the wheel. One mistake can end in tragedy.
Statistics compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) indicate that:
And yet, during the more than 40 years since our founding, the attorneys at Searcy Denney have seen the numbers of distracted driving accident claims skyrocket in Florida. In every case, these truck crashes were preventable if the truck driver would have paid attention and the trucking corporation had implemented more effective training and driver safety policies. Our legal team is here to help you recover damages resulting from a distracted truck driver.
Long hours on the road can lead to boredom, fatigue and loneliness for long-haul drivers. Drivers may engage in inappropriate tasks as they maneuver their tractor-trailer at high speed on Florida’s highways and through our small towns.
Although much attention is given to texting and phone use, dangerous driving distractions include a wide range of other activities, including:
A majority of states now ban all drivers from texting while behind the wheel, whether in a car or a truck. And it’s a good thing, because texting takes a driver’s eyes of the road for 4.6 seconds – the same as driving the length of a football field blindfolded at 55 miles an hour!
Since January 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has banned truck drivers from texting or talking on a handheld phone while operating commercial vehicles. The law applies to drivers of buses, tractor-trailers, delivery vans, heavy machinery, sanitation equipment and other vehicles of a specific size and weight. A majority of states now ban all drivers from texting while behind the wheel – but even in a state that does not, the federal texting ban still applies to truck drivers.
Under the FMSCA provisions, drivers cannot:
Drivers who violate these laws face fines of up to $2,750 and driver’s license suspension for up to 120 days for repeat offenses. Employers may also be fined up to $11,000 for knowingly tolerating or requiring cell phone use or texting while behind the wheel. In addition, the FMCSA has amended its commercial driver’s license certification process to include among disqualifying offenses a conviction in any state or local jurisdiction that bans texting while operating a commercial vehicle.
Consumer organizations and industry associations work to educate truck drivers about assuming responsibility for preventing distracted driving accidents. Here are some tips for truckers:
Our fast-paced culture demands products and services immediately. Truck companies have responded by pressuring drivers to make deliveries in unreasonable timeframes. These companies often knowingly put sleep-deprived drivers behind the wheel or create a corporate culture in which driving while tired is widely accepted and even expected.
For example, in a March 2013 fatal truck crash in Kentucky, a truck driver rear-ended a passenger car and killed six people. Investigations by the FMCSA revealed that the driver had been driving well beyond hours-of-service regulations and had falsified his records – both at the demand of the company that owned the truck.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that almost 4,000 people die in crashes with commercial vehicles every year, and cites tired driving as a leading cause. Not only are motorists at risk, but the tired drivers themselves often die in these horrific and unnecessary accidents.
Searcy Denney has represented Florida drivers injured in vehicle crashes for more than 40 years. Our legal team has the experience and resources to pursue not only a fatigued truck driver who may have caused a crash, but also the large trucking corporation responsible for an accident involving its fleets and drivers.
FMCSA regulations govern the numbers of hours commercial drivers are permitted to work and drive, and mandate periodic rest breaks. The hours of service (HOS) rules also require drivers and their employers to keep logs of their driving, working and rest periods.
Generally, these rules regulate truck drivers:
Bus drivers are subject to similar HOS rules, including:
Typically, the trucking corporation provides its own documentation of driving, shift and rest hours. For many years, truck drivers kept paper logs, entering hand-written data every day. But in December 2015, federal law required all trucking companies to use an electronic logging device, called an ELD, that automatically records driving time and monitors engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven, and location information.
The FMCSA believes that requiring electronic logs will strengthen commercial truck drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service regulations that prevent fatigue. In addition, roadside safety inspectors will be able to detect violations of the law that could endanger the lives of other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
Tired drivers are a menace on the road. The effects of sleepiness and fatigue substantially increase the risk of serious accident. Studies have shown that drowsiness results in:
Harvard Medical School researchers and National Heart Lung and Blood Institute staff have associated sleep apnea (OSA) as a cause of truck driver fatigue. OSA occurs when a person’s airway collapses or is blocked while sleeping and results in insufficient sleep. A major risk factor for sleep apnea is obesity, and as many as 40% to 50% of commercial drivers are obese. The Harvard School of Public Health is developing objective screening methods that could help truck drivers identify problems that could cause dozing at the wheel.
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 face a lifetime of pain and suffering.
While 18-wheelers and tractor trailers are heavy and difficult to maneuver, this does not excuse commercial truck drivers from observing the rules of the road. If your accident was the result of truck driver negligence, you deserve to be fully compensated.
Not only are truck drivers subject to the same rules of the road as other drivers, but they are also subject to enhanced federal safety standards. Federal regulations that limit truck driver hours and impose other requirements are designed to prevent the mistakes that can lead to dangerous accidents.
After an accident involving a commercial truck, it is important not to assume that you played a role in the crash. Could you have done something to avoid the collision? Maybe. But, maybe not. Oftentimes, truck drivers’ mistakes leave other drivers with no way to protect themselves from serious injuries.
Many accidents involving unsafe lane changes occur because truck drivers fail to check their blind spots. Truck drivers must always check their blind spots before changing lanes; and, if they are unsure whether it is safe to change lanes, they should remain in their lane until they know they have plenty of room.
If you were injured in a commercial truck accident, you are entitled to full compensation for all of your accident-related losses. This includes not only the damage to your vehicle and your outstanding medical bills, but also your future medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and various other financial and non-financial losses.
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.
The FMCSA reports that in 2014, about 5% of drivers violated multiple safety standards, and 20% of trucks were pulled out of service because of too many safety violations.
Truck safety advocates recommend that truck companies purchase new trucks that are equipped with antilock braking systems and load-proportioning brake valves. But 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.
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 2014 NHTSA analysis of large truck crashes, trucks were struck in the rear almost three times as often as were other vehicles (21% 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.
The NHTSA studies indicate that in two-vehicle crashes in 2014, both the truck and the vehicle were going straight ahead 45% of the time. In 10% of these crashes, the other vehicle was turning right or left; in 9% of crashes both the truck and other vehicle were navigating curves; and in 7% of crashes either the truck or the other vehicle was stopped in traffic. Both trucks and passenger cars were hit in the front 28% of the time.
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.
One of the challenges in identifying drug use in truck crashes and in 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. Right now, although truck drivers are required to take these random tests, without a national database, employers cannot find out whether prospective employees have failed.
According 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 $67 billion 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.
Some good news: In May 2012, the American Transportation Research Institute in Arlington, Virginia issued a Phase I report on its study to identify state-by-state concentrations of large truck rollovers and build a database that would be available nationally. Although rollovers are only a small percentage of total large truck crashes, over half of all large truck occupant deaths involve rollovers.
ATRIA’s mission is to “profile” road configurations and conditions that have contributed to rollovers and initiate an in-cab warning system for large truck operators as they near a site where rollover risk is high. Thirty-one states have provided more than 48,000 non-fatal rollover records to the database, which pinpoints the top 10 locations and roads for truck rollovers in each state.
States with the highest numbers of rollovers included Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Missouri. In Florida, high-risk rollover sites have been identified as the intersections of I-95 and I-10, the Florida Turnpike and US 27, and I-95 and I-4.
During a truck crash investigation, the experienced Florida truck accident attorneys at Searcy Denney take effective steps to determine if the driver was using a cell phone or participating in some other form of distracted driving at the time of your accident.
While we can never prevent all truck crashes, many deaths and serious injuries can be avoided if truck drivers and drivers of other motor vehicles all do their part. Here are some things that truck drivers can do to keep themselves safe and to protect the rest of us on the road:
No matter what the cause or who is to blame for the truck accident that harmed you or your family, you are the one who now faces exorbitant medical expenses, lost wages, and the pain and suffering of horrific injuries or a loved one’s death. The Florida truck crash lawyers at Searcy Denney have more than 40 years’ experience with clients in circumstances similar to yours. Please contact us for a free, confidential consultation to help you learn your rights and explore your options for pursuing recovery from the person and/or corporation responsible.