When passenger vehicles and commercial trucks collide, the consequences can be deadly. Truck accidents prove fatal far too often, because the size of 18-wheelers and other commercial trucks makes them a serious threat to other vehicles.
In 2009, nearly 3,500 people were killed in the United States as a result of collisions with heavy trucks, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Truck accidents may be caused by a variety of factors, much like any other motor vehicle accident.
Driver Fatigue May Affect Responsiveness and Cause Accidents
Commercial truck drivers are under significant pressure to travel quickly and meet deadlines. Unfortunately, this encourages drivers to drive longer and travel further than is necessarily safe. After hours on the road, it can be more difficult to pay sufficient attention to the task and respond to changing circumstances.
To prevent drivers from taking to the road when exhausted, the federal government strictly regulates the number of hours truck drivers can spend on the road.
According to the Hours-of-Service (HOS) Regulations promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, after 10 consecutive hours off-duty, a truck driver carrying property may drive a maximum of 11 hours. The FMCSA also limits the number of hours a commercial driver can drive in any seven or eight day period. However, these regulations are currently under review, and the FMCSA is expected to publish new HOS Regulations by July 26, 2011.
Distractions Are Dangerous for all Drivers
When any driver fails to devote his or her full attention to the road, the likelihood of an accident increases. This is true whether driving a compact sports car or an 80,000 pound 18-wheeler.
According to the Governor's Highway Safety Association, more than half of all states in the country have forbidden drivers from sending text messages while driving. To prevent truck drivers from distractions in the remaining states, though, the FMCSA prohibits all drivers of commercial motor vehicles from texting while behind the wheel.
Although such regulations may be inconvenient for truck drivers who spend hours on end on the road, they are unquestionably necessary. A study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute revealed that truck drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in accidents or near-misses when texting while driving.
The Effects of Poor Road Conditions and Improper Maintenance
When road conditions are less than ideal, many people try to minimize the time they spend driving. However, truck drivers have strong incentives to drive through all weather conditions in order to arrive on time.
In addition, properly maintained vehicles are safer than those with defects or those that do not undergo regular examinations. Truck repair and maintenance can be costly, though, and may keep a commercial driver off the road and therefore out of work.
When deciding whether or not to take to the roads, a truck driver must make a difficult calculation. Unfortunately, the truck driver's decision may not always be the safest choice - and others on the road may face the consequences.
The Role of Other Drivers in Causing Truck Accidents
Of course, other vehicles on the road can also contribute to truck accidents. However, even in these situations when another driver contributes to the accident, the dangers and injuries may be aggravated by the errors of a truck driver.
If someone you love has been injured as the result of a truck driver's negligence, you should not have to suffer the consequences alone. Speak with a personal injury lawyer who can help you understand your potential legal claims.