Exhaust from a large truck

A Guide to the Common Causes of Truck Accidents

According to the National Safety Council, 147,000 people were injured in large truck crashes in 2020. If you’ve ever driven beside a tractor-trailer on the highway, you know how intimidating these vehicles can be. Due to their enormous size and weight, accidents involving trucks tend to have a greater amount of damage, as well as more severe personal injuries. Understanding how they happen is key to staying safe on the road.

Today, we’re sharing a quick guide to the most common causes of truck accidents to help you prepare and drive more defensively.

What Causes Truck Accidents?

Often, there is more than one issue at play when a truck accident occurs. Many different factors can contribute to a collision, so it’s important to stay mindful any time you’re in the vicinity of a large vehicle such as a delivery truck, dump truck, flatbed truck, tow truck, or tractor-trailer.

Let’s take a look at six common causes of accidents involving trucks.

Blind Spots

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) explains that large trucks have four major blind spots. These are located:

  • 20 feet ahead
  • 30 feet behind
  • 1 lane to the left
  • 2 lanes to the right

The turning radius on a standard large truck is 55 feet. If you’re driving anywhere near a truck, be aware of these areas and give the vehicle plenty of space to maneuver.

Breaking Difficulties

Not only do trucks have large blind spots, but the FMCSA also explains that these oversized vehicles take longer to brake. In fact, they require around 40% more time to come to a complete stop.

Much of this is due to their sheer size and weight. Federal regulations limit big rigs to 80,000 pounds, including cargo. In comparison, the average consumer car only weighs a little over 4,000 pounds.

With so much bulk, these vehicles naturally require more time to slow down. According to the FMCSA, trucks traveling 65 miles per hour can take up to two football fields to stop. In adverse weather conditions, they can take even longer.

Remember to keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the truck in front of you, taking care not to follow too closely.

Distracted Driving

Any driver can become distracted, including a truck driver. Common causes of distraction include:

  • Using a cell phone
  • Adjusting the radio
  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking with other passengers
  • Reaching for an item

One FMCSA study found that 71% of truck accidents occur because the truck driver is distracted by an activity other than simply driving the vehicle. This risk becomes greater when the driver is fatigued or isn’t familiar with their route.

Fatigue

It’s no secret that truck drivers spend a lot of time on the road. After just 10 hours off-duty, federal regulations permit them to drive up to 11 hours straight.

Though they may start their shift with a clear mind and sharp focus, this attention can wane over time. There’s also the issue of highway hypnosis, wherein the constant, repetitive sounds of the road can lull drivers into a state of sleepiness.

This is another reason to give truck drivers plenty of space and always drive defensively.

Route Unfamiliarity

Some truck drivers are assigned to the same route, every time. Yet, this isn’t always the case. Many are required to drive on new and unfamiliar routes on a regular basis.

If they aren’t sure where they’re going, they’ll spend more time trying to navigate to their new destination. Previously, this would have meant taking out a physical map or an atlas. Now, it means scanning a smartphone.

Not only is phone usage a hazard, but drivers may also be unfamiliar with the lay of the land. They may not anticipate stoplights, stop signs, or pedestrian crossings that are more familiar to drivers who travel that route frequently.

Deadline Pressure

Truck drivers are under pressure to deliver cargo in a timely manner. Most of them have strict deadlines that they must meet. At the same time, these drivers are not allowed to drive more than a set number of hours per shift.

When combined, these factors can create a great deal of stress on each driver. They may speed to reach their destination, putting other drivers at risk. Prolonged bouts of stress can also lead to substance abuse, which is another safety risk.

Highway Aggression

When drivers become aggressive, they can lose control of their temper and their vehicle. Sometimes, a roadway incident will provoke this aggression. For instance, a truck driver might become frustrated with the pace of the vehicle in front of them, and try to pass them in an illegal passing zone.

While this is a hazard for any driver, it’s especially dangerous for truck drivers. Remember that these vehicles are heavier and harder to maneuver. They aren’t as nimble on the road, and even the slightest degree of aggression can lead to a collision.

Mechanical Issues

Big trucks experience more than their fair share of wear and tear. This is why you’ll often find shreds of tires along the highway. They’re under an enormous amount of weight and pressure, which can lead to problems if the vehicle is not properly maintained.

When tires are overused, under improper pressure, or misaligned, the entire vehicle becomes risky to operate. The same holds true if there’s any kind of issue with the brakes or a component under the hood. Regular maintenance keeps vehicles, drivers, and passengers safe on the road.

Bad Weather

Truck drivers experience all kinds of weather when they’re behind the wheel. In addition to the glaring sun, there’s also the potential for a severe weather event, such as:

  • Hail
  • Snow
  • Ice
  • Heavy rain

All of these conditions can make the roadways less safe. They can also impair a driver’s visibility. Even heavy fog or wind can make it difficult to handle such a large vehicle.

While these conditions can make driving dangerous, it’s ultimately the driver’s responsibility to consider the forecast and adjust their driving behaviors accordingly.

Have You Been Injured in a Truck Accident?

There are many different factors that can contribute to a truck accident. If you’ve been injured in a truck crash, you should contact a Costa Mesa truck accident attorney as soon as possible.

An experienced attorney will review the details of your case, helping to prove the issues that put the truck driver at fault.

From mechanical problems to driver fatigue, these are some of the most common causes of truck accidents. To discuss what led to your accident and to find out if you are eligible for compensation, contact us today for a free consultation.

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