Despite major advances in transportation safety, complex truck accidents remain common in most parts of the country. Each year, there are more than 500,000 truck accidents in the United States – ultimately resulting in more than 50,000 fatalities.
What are the factors that lead to truck accidents, and why are they still so common?
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
These are the most common factors leading to truck accidents:
- Mechanical issues. Trucks are complex machines, and it only takes one missing or broken part to spell disaster. If the truck isn’t properly maintained, or if it suffers a mechanical failure at an inopportune moment, it could lead to a major accident. For example, the brakes could fail on a major highway, rendering the truck unable to stop. Trucks are required to undergo regular inspections and maintenance, so mechanical failures are often a byproduct of neglect.
- Intoxication. Though truck drivers have a responsibility to remain sober and focused on the road, occasionally, truck drivers drink alcohol or consume mind-altering substances before driving. Truck driver intoxication is an unfortunately common cause of accidents.
- Driver fatigue. Fatigue is less egregious than intoxication, but it has similarly powerful effects. If truck driver drives for too long without a break, or if they’re not getting enough sleep, they may have delayed reaction times or suffer from other symptoms that interfere with their ability to drive.
- Driver distraction. If a truck driver is distracted by a text message, a billboard, or other drivers on the road, they won’t be able to focus or drive safely. Driver distraction is a leading cause of accidents, both for truck drivers and ordinary car drivers.
- Inclement weather. Inclement weather makes it much more difficult to drive. If the roads are full of snow and ice, or if a thick fog lowers visibility, truck drivers may not be able to drive as safely as usual. Experienced, responsible truck drivers can make accommodations for inclement weather, but it still poses a risk.
- Irregular traffic conditions. Irregular or unexpected traffic conditions can also lead to truck accidents. If there is a sudden traffic jam, or if there’s a detour due to a road closure, it can present a dangerous situation that could lead to an accident.
Why Are Truck Accidents Still So Common?
There are a few main explanations for why truck accidents are still so common:
- Reliance on human drivers. For now, trucks are still largely driven by human beings, and human beings are naturally imperfect. Even the most focused drivers among us are occasionally distracted, and even the most skilled drivers must sometimes deal with bad weather conditions. Given enough time and repetition, it’s inevitable that truck accidents occur.
- The size and power of trucks. It’s also important to mention the sheer size and power of trucks. These vehicles are much heavier and harder to maneuver than traditional vehicles, requiring more braking distance and time. It’s harder to prevent an accident in a truck, and when accidents do occur, they tend to be much more devastating.
- Imperfect roads and traffic patterns. Our understanding of traffic patterns and road safety has improved significantly over the past few decades, but it’s still imperfect. Our roads aren’t perfectly maintained, and traffic patterns always have the possibility of developing unpredictably.
What to Do If You’re Involved in a Truck Accident
If you’re ever involved in a truck accident, these are the most important steps to take:
- Get to safety. Before anything else, get yourself to safety as soon as possible. If your vehicle is in the road, see if you can get it off the road. If you’re not able to move your vehicle, get yourself off the road. If you stay put, you could be at risk for further injury – and you’ll put other people at risk at the same time.
- Call for help. Once you get to somewhere safe, it’s important to call for help. Even if you don’t feel like you’re injured, it’s a good idea to get checked out by a medical professional. It’s also important to check other passengers in your vehicle or other vehicles to see if anyone needs emergency medical attention.
- Document the accident. From there, document the accident. Take lots of photos and videos and gather as much information as possible from other people involved in the accident. Take eyewitness accounts if you can and make sure you file a police report.
- Talk to a lawyer. Finally, talk to a lawyer. If this accident was attributable to truck driver negligence, you may be able to sue for damages. Your lawyer will help you understand the nature of your case and provide you with advice and direction to maximize the compensation you receive.
Truck accidents are still common, but you can often avoid them by being a safe, defensive driver. If you do ever find yourself involved in a truck accident, prioritize your own safety and the safety of your passengers, then call for help and prepare to take legal action.