Learn how common commercial accidents are and how you should drive to keep yourself safe around semi-trucks.
You probably don’t really care about commercial truck accidents until one happens to you, a friend, loved one, or a co-worker – although most drivers can agree that driving beside or around a commercial truck can be terrifying.
But what you don’t know can hurt you. Some of these truck accident statistics give you useful background information, while others can save your life.
Keep reading to see what we mean:
Overall, it is safer to drive with large trucks than in past decades.
Data from the US Department of Transportation shows 2,485 passenger vehicle occupants died in “large truck accidents” in 2014. The most deaths happened in 1979, when 4,226 people in passenger vehicles died in large truck accidents.
That’s a 41.1% drop from 1979, which represents good progress.
However, this number is up slightly from 2009, when 2,223 occupants of passenger vehicles died in large truck accidents.
How do large truck accidents happen?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration did a study on truck accidents to see what conditions cause them.
At a high level, they found 87% of the accidents were caused by the driver. Just 10% happened as a result of something wrong with the vehicle. Only 3% happened because of “environmental” factors.
Brake problems were a factor in 29.0% of all accidents. Here are other top reasons:
- 23% – driving too fast for conditions
- 22% – unfamiliar with the road
- 20% – problems with the road
- 17% – over-the-counter drug use by the driver
- 14% – inadequate driver surveillance
- 13% – driver fatigue
- 10% – driver felt high pressure from the company
- 9% – the driver made an “illegal maneuver”
- 5% – driver followed too close
- 4% – cargo shift
- 3% – driver illness
How should you drive around large commercial trucks?
When you have opportunity to position yourself, drive behind commercial trucks to nearly eliminate your chances of an accident happening. Commercial trucks often weigh 20-40 times what passenger vehicles do. And, the smaller your car, the more urgency you should feel to protect yourself.
When you drive behind commercial trucks, you have plenty of time to react to what they do. When you drive in front of them, you’re in jeopardy. And simple physics dictate they have much more momentum and more difficulty controlling their vehicle to the point where they can dodge you or safely to a stop behind you.
So, just drive well behind a large commercial truck (don’t follow closely to catch their “draft” like some drivers do). And if you get stuck in front of one, stay calm and do everything you can to let them by if necessary.
And if you do get in an accident with an 18-wheeler, hire the best personal injury lawyer you can find. Trucking companies do not want to pay damages to injured victims, and injury lawyers only charge when you win. With no risk, you might as well get the top personal injury lawyer that’s available.
Shane V. Mullen is an attorney licensed by the State of Texas for the general practice of law, and the Managing Partner at Mullen & Mullen Law Firm in Dallas, TX. His firm focuses exclusively on personal injury law and has been in business for 40 years (since 1983). Before becoming a lawyer, Shane worked for his father as an accident injury claims investigator.