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Common Truck Accident Causes

Crashes involving large trucks and buses continue to increase. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”), about 5,200 fatal accidents in 2019 included these larger vehicles. The numbers, according to the report, represent a 2 percent increase in fatalities with semi-trucks from 2018.

Indiana accidents between a semi-truck and a car often result in serious, sometimes catastrophic injuries. Due to the sheer size of the large vehicle, the damage it inflicts on smaller passenger cars is severe. Thus, it is more likely that the occupants in the smaller car sustain life-altering injuries, which may prove fatal. Learn about some of the most common causes of these large vehicle crashes.

Lane Drifting

The FMCSA identifies that 32 percent of truck-related crashes are due to lane drifting. When a truck driver loses focus, the semi may strike barricades or other vehicles as it shifts unexpectedly from the proper lane of travel into other traffic lanes or to the side of the road. While the reasons for the sudden shift are not always known, especially if the crash claims the driver’s life, some common causes are identifiable.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving remains a national epidemic. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration attributes over 3,100 fatalities in 2019 to distracted driving. While car companies and law enforcement are doing what they can to discourage the dangerous practice, drivers still continue to take their eyes off the road.

Distracted driving has become the top reason vehicles leave their lanes of travel. Looking down at a smartphone to text or read an email may cause attention to divert just long enough to result in a crash. Changing the radio station, eating a meal, and talking to passengers are all forms of distracted driving.

Driving Tired

Truck drivers work around the clock. Some of them choose to travel at night to take advantage of decreased traffic, especially through busy cities and interchanges. However, the toll this type of schedule takes on the body is high. 

Sleep deprivation is a serious issue across the board in truck drivers. While laws require drivers to take mandatory breaks that correlate with their time on the road, it does not mean it is enough to recharge the body. Sleep deprivation is common among truckers, even those who follow the time of use rules set by the FMCSA. Trucks may drift into adjacent lanes after a driver nods off behind the wheel.

Losing Control

When a driver loses control of a vehicle, several factors may come into play. A mechanical failure within the truck may account for a loss of control. Common truck failures that may result in the driver losing control include:

  • Brake loss
  • Tire blowout
  • Trailer separation
  • Loss of power steering

Truck drivers are encouraged to perform daily system checks that focus on tires and brakes to ensure they do not lose control due to a preventable breakdown.

Excessive Speed

Breaking the speed limit is not only against the law; it is a significant factor in semi-truck accidents. Speeding is dangerous enough in a passenger vehicle, but in a truck, it becomes deadlier. A semi-truck is 30 to 40 times heavier than a car. As such, the time it takes to stop to avoid a crash is substantially more. The FMCSA estimates it takes at least 200 yards for a loaded tractor-trailer to stop when the driving conditions are good, and the truck is moving at the appropriate speed.

Thus, when a truck is too close to the vehicle ahead, it cannot stop. A loss of control occurs when the driver attempts to maneuver around the car or runs off the road. The truck driver must make a split-second decision that often ends with an accident involving one or more vehicles.

Jackknife Crashes

When a semi-truck needs to brake too hard or make an extreme evasive movement either left or right, the trailer may start to move sideways. The driver no longer has control over the trailer, and it strikes any and all vehicles in its path. A jackknife crash is one of the most catastrophic as it often sweeps other cars into it. There is also a greater chance that the semi-truck will roll over in this type of situation.

Driving Under the Influence

Driving impaired is illegal in every state. When a truck driver takes to the road after drinking alcohol or using drugs, it may have catastrophic consequences. As such, the penalties for drunk driving for those with a CDL are more severe. For instance, in Indiana, the threshold for a blood alcohol content in car drivers is .08. However, the threshold drops to .04 BAC for truck drivers operating under the influence. 

Another element of the Indiana statute is that a CDL holder does not need to get caught in a commercial vehicle for this standard to apply. If a trucker is driving a passenger car and gets pulled over on suspicion of operating while intoxicated, their CDL could be suspended. A first-time offense may find a driver with a CDL suspension and a fine. Anything beyond that may mean a permanent loss of a commercial driver’s license.

Prescription Drug Use

Truck drivers may take prescription medication for a variety of reasons. Some drugs help control seasonal allergies, while others serve to assist drivers in remaining focused on and off the road. In some instances, these drugs may cause an impairment of the trucker’s ability to adequately react to the road ahead. If a driver does not possess a prescription for this medication and is found guilty of driving under the influence, they may immediately lose CDL and face other drug-related charges.

Get Legal Assistance Now

Any accident may require a change in lifestyle due to lingering injuries. However, those involving semi-trucks may necessitate a complete life change. The professionals at the Hensley Legal Group understand how important it is to get the financial compensation necessary to recover. Set an appointment now to get some insight into expectations for the help required after such a traumatic event.