Trucks are just like cars, only bigger, right? Of course not. While less than 10 percent of fatal accidents involve commercial trucks, trucking accidents nearly always have the potential to be more catastrophic than regular automobile accidents. The vast difference in size between a car or motorcycle and a semi or tractor-trailer means that any injuries suffered in an accident involving trucks tend to be far more serious, if not fatal.
Why and how do these accidents occur, and just how at risk are you and your loved ones? Is there anything you or anyone else can do to help prevent these devastating wrecks?
Why truck accidents happen
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, approximately 9 percent of motor vehicle fatalities involve commercial trucks. While that may not sound like a lot, it means that the year the data was gathered, a total of 3,400 individuals died in crashes involving semis or tractor-trailers, and that statistic had already increased from the previous year. Numbers aside, when it comes to your own life or the life of your loved ones, even one fatal trucking accident is too many.
Often, accidents may result from truck drivers failing to follow safety precautions and regulations, or trucking corporations improperly training their drivers. Sometimes, drivers may feel coerced into driving while fatigued. Regardless, the truck drivers themselves were at fault for at least an estimated 20 percent of trucking accidents. Exactly what causes these often-fatal crashes, though? According to the Department of Transportation, the top reasons trucking accidents occur are:
- Truck driver fatigue
- Loss of control
- Lane drifting
- Mechanical failure
- Shifting cargo
- Debris on highway
- Poor road conditions (due to either bad maintenance or inclement weather)
While some of these causes – like highway debris -- are less foreseeable and preventable, others -- such as driver fatigue -- are entirely avoidable if the truck drivers take the proper precautions.
Just like with a car, operating a truck requires constant attention to the road, to driving and to the truck itself. For truck drivers, though, the stakes are higher, as any loss of concentration has the potential to be life-threatening. Drivers of commercial vehicle have the responsibility to follow safety precautions at all times. Most do, knowing the high cost both in loss of life and, should you choose to pursue legal action, in monetary damages and liability. Unfortunately, though, all it takes is one mistake.
As the driver of a car or SUV, there is only so much you can do to prevent serious or fatal trucking accidents. For the safety of you and your passengers, you will want to follow all regular traffic precautions as you normally would -- like driving the speed limit and keeping a safe distance behind any trucks in front of you – and try to be extra alert when you are traveling near semis. When it comes to an accident with a tractor-trailer, defensive driving could save your life.