Statistics show fatal truck accidents on the rise
Because they are so much bigger and heavier than other vehicles on the road, large trucks are potentially more dangerous than passenger cars. An accident that might be relatively minor if had happened between two sedans can easily lead to serious injury or fatalities if one of the vehicles is a semitrailer.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration closely monitors statistics in truck and bus accidents, looking for trends and clues about how to prevent accidents and keep people safe. In a recently released study, the FMCSA found a disturbing trend: In 2017, 4,657 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes, representing a 10% increase from the year before. Another measure known as the large truck involvement rate, which is the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes per 100 million miles traveled by large trucks, rose by 6%. The 2017 statistics represent the most recent available.
The study also tracked fatal bus accidents and found that bus crashes decreased over the same time period. There could be many reasons for a rise in fatal truck crashes, but it is disturbing to note that the increase comes after several years of declining fatality rates in these accidents.
Large truck crashes lead to complicated legal issues. As with other motor vehicle accidents, a person injured in a truck crash caused by another driver’s negligence may seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. In the event of a fatal accident, the victim’s immediate family may pursue compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Typically, the defendant in these cases is the driver who caused the accident. However, in accidents caused by truck drivers, other parties, such as the driver’s employer, may be held liable. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, state and federal trucking regulations may come into play, as well.
People who have been injured, or lost a loved one, in a truck accident can talk to a lawyer with experience in this difficult area of the law. An experienced personal injury attorney can advise them on their options.
Distracted truck drivers a leading cause of rollovers
Every day, tractor-trailers move hundreds of thousands of shipments of good and materials throughout the country. In California, as in other states, many of these trucks travel with shipments of materials that can be dangerous, such as crude oil, gasoline and various kinds of chemicals. While most such shipments get to their destination without incident, some do not.
The trucking industry typically uses cargo tanks to secure and transport dangerous materials. However, according to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), more than 1,300 cargo tank rollovers occur each year. Cargo tank rollovers pose unique problems because the dangerous materials inside of them can cause injury and death to anyone in the area, in addition to property and environmental damage.
The FMCSA has also dispelled some myths about how these cargo tank rollovers usually occur. Truck drivers and other people might assume that poor driving conditions are a major culprit behind these rollover accidents. According to the FMCSA, however, that is not necessarily true. More than half of these truck accidents happen on straight roads, and 93 percent of them occur when the road is dry. Moreover, roughly 66 percent of cargo tank rollovers happen during daylight hours.
As opposed to being caused by difficult driving conditions, the vast majority of rollover accidents — about 78 percent — involve driver error. For example, truck driver fatigue or drowsiness, along with distracted truck drivers, account for about 20 percent of all cargo tank rollovers. Equipment problems, like brake defects, can also contribute to rollover accidents.
Like other kinds of accidents, cargo tank rollovers occur too often — about four per day based on the FMCSA data. When a driver, or the truck itself, is not up to the task of transporting a heavy load of dangerous materials, it can lead to a fatal truck accident. Drivers and truck companies are responsible not just for their own safety, but also for the safety of other drivers who share the roadways with their trucks.
When might a truck driver cause a truck accident?
Orange County residents probably know intuitively that truck accidents are serious and potentially deadly affairs. Whether an accident involving a tractor-trailer is caused by speeding, an overloaded truck or some other reason, the end result is almost always significant property damage and, in many cases, serious injuries. This is because trucks are so much bigger than the other cars with which they share the road.
Sometimes, truck drivers get in to accidents either because they did not have proper training for operating their vehicles or chose to ignore that training. While truck drivers are supposed to have extra training before getting behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle, sometimes their education is lacking. When the driver does not understand how to operate the vehicles correctly or how to avoid accidents, the driver is more prone to wrecking his or her truck. Even if this lack of training is not the driver’s fault, it is still his or her responsibility to know how to drive a large truck with care.
On the other hand, many drivers know how to operate their vehicles safely but choose not to do so. Sometimes, this is because they get paid more to travel at high speeds and for long hours, even when doing so is not safe. Companies sometimes even put pressure on their drivers, sometimes not so subtly, to rush their deliveries even if doing so is risky.
Truck accidents often cause serious personal injuries to other people. They are also preventable when truck drivers and their employers focus on safety instead of profit. When truckers do not do what they reasonably can to prevent accidents, their victims may want to learn more about whether they can seek compensation from them.
Do sleeping problems cause truck accidents?
Many people in Orange County know what it’s like to have trouble sleeping. For some people, getting a good night’s rest is a constant struggle that can affect every other part of their daily life. When the person is a semi truck driver, a sleeping disorder can have deadly consequences.
According to a study that the University of Pennsylvania conducted, about 28 percent of commercial truck drivers have some form of a sleeping disorder known as sleep apnea. This disorder causes the person to have intermittent breathing problems while they sleep. Sleep apnea can be a life-threatening problem, and it can also deprive the person of getting adequate nightly sleep.
So what are the dangers for truck drivers who have sleep apnea, does the disorder cause truck accidents? If the driver doesn’t get treatment for sleep apnea, they may have difficulty staying awake and alert while on the road. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that many people who have sleep apnea claim to never fall asleep at the wheel. Even if that is true, however, the FMCSA cautions that a truck driver doesn’t have to fall asleep to cause a truck accident.
A truck driver who has sleep apnea may be able to keep themselves awake while on the road, but they may not be alert and able to react as quickly as they need to for safe driving. The FMCSA suggests that truck drivers who have sleep apnea should get medical treatment so that they can rest better and drive safely. It also warns that a failure to get treatment could render the trucker medically unqualified to drive.
Truck driver fatigue is problem enough without the added potential of a fatal truck accident due to a driver’s sleep disorder. If a person is injured in a truck accident, they may want to investigate whether the truck driver had some untreated condition, like sleep apnea, that could have caused the accident.
Federal rules aim to cut down on truck driver fatigue
Drivers who are not devoting their full attention to the road are a risk to themselves and to everyone else utilizing the highway system. Anyone in the Ocala area who has ever driven a vehicle knows that it is easy to lose focus while behind the wheel. Distractions are plentiful, and come in many different forms. Whether the distraction is an amusing roadside advertisement or a cellular phone conversation, it could cause serious consequences.
The stakes are even higher when it comes to distracted truck drivers. This is because their tremendous size and weight makes accidents involving semi-trucks especially dangerous. Therefore, it is imperative for truck drivers to be well-trained and to always be attentive while on the road.
For commercial drivers that travel long distances on a daily basis, staying awake behind the wheel can be a unique challenge. Truck driver fatigue is a far more serious problem than just occasional drowsiness.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), driver fatigue is a leading factor in the roughly 4,000 fatal commercial truck accidents that occur each year. Accordingly, the federal government has imposed new rules that limit the number of hours that truck drivers can be on the road. These rules took effect over a year ago, following years of research and more than 20,000 formal public comments.
Under the new requirements, truck drivers must have at least 34 consecutive hours of downtime every seven days if the driver works 60 or more hours during that same period. The FMCSA based those time parameters on scientific research about the link between long work hours and crashes.
The Hours-of-Service Rules have been unpopular amongst some people in the trucking industry. But, the goal of the rules was not to inhibit the economics of the industry. Rather, the rules are designed to promote safety and prevent fatal commercial truck accidents resulting from driver fatigue.
What consequences do drunk truck drivers face?
Driving a tractor trailer is an important job because these trucks are one of the primary means by which goods are moved throughout the state of California and all across the country. Whether the cargo is fresh fruit that’s headed to an Orange County grocery store, or raw materials going to a manufacturing plant, many people and businesses rely on trucks to transport all kinds of products.
Big rig trucks are vital to the country’s economy, but they can also pose tremendous dangers because of their huge size and weight. Accordingly, it is imperative that truck drivers have proper training and drive with safety as their top priority.
Of course, truck drivers are people too, and are prone to the same kinds of mistakes as any other driver on the road. The difference is that truck drivers are entrusted with greater responsibility, which is why they must have special training and licensing. In addition, commercial truck drivers must adhere to higher standards than other drivers when it comes to driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Under California law, the legal blood-alcohol concentration limit is 0.08 percent for drivers of passenger vehicles. For commercial drivers, however, that limit is cut in half to just 0.04 percent blood-alcohol concentration. If a truck driver exceeds the limit, the state will revoke their commercial license. This means that a drunk truck driver is not only risking lives, but also their own livelihood.
Truck driver DUI is a very serious matter that can lead to fatal commercial truck accidents. Although most commercial truck drivers understand the importance of safety, some disregard their responsibilities. When it comes to drinking and driving, truck drivers face license revocation and all of the criminal penalties that are applicable to any DUI case. In addition, if a drunk truck driver injures anyone else on the road, the driver and their employer will likely have legal liability for the damages that they cause.
Regardless of cause, truck accidents are destructive events
Accidents involving large commercial vehicles, like tractor trailers, are a concern for drivers in Orange county and all throughout the country. These kinds of accidents tend to produce severe injuries and substantial property damage. Like any other kind of accident, understanding how truck accidents occur can help to prevent them in the future.
In addition to the usual causes of any motor vehicle crash, which often involve someone’s negligent actions, truck accidents involve a few unique variables. For example, a truck that is overloaded with cargo can make the vehicle more difficult to operate safely. Furthermore, truck driver fatigue is a common issue amongst drivers who spend long hours on the road in an effort to move goods across the country as quickly as possible.
In 2007, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released the results of a large-scale study that it conducted in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The study, which was called the “Large Truck Crash Causation Study,” examined a sample of the 120,000 crashes that occurred during a two year period.
Following the study, the FMCSA reported that speeding was one of the factors that commonly caused trucks to lose control. The data showed that loss of control led to 29 percent of the truck accidents in the study sample. Interestingly, the study also showed that in 44 percent of the accidents involving a truck and a passenger vehicle, the “critical reason” behind the accident could be attributed to the truck and its driver.
Although the data from this study is now more than a decade old, it still sheds some light on how and why truck accidents occur. Regardless of the cause, however, truck accidents can be life-altering events for victims. The thousands of people a year find themselves in this difficult situation and can hold truck companies and their drivers accountable through legal claims.
Semi truck accidents can cause tremendous personal injury
It is difficult to imagine California’s roadways without large commercial semi trucks. These vehicles are a fixture on highways all across the country, and the Orange County area is no different when it comes to truck travel. Semi trucks serve critical functions, and will likely continue to be one of the primary means of moving bulk goods long distances for many years to come. Of course, transportation via commercial truck does come with some substantial drawbacks.
Probably the most notable concern related to commercial trucking is the accidents that they can cause. Because of the size, weight and speed of travel of many of these vehicles, they can demolish other, smaller, vehicles in their paths. Hence, a collision between a semi truck and a car, or even an SUV, tends to put the occupants of that smaller vehicle in grave danger of serious injury or death.
Easton and Easton LLP is a law firm that is dedicated to helping people who suffer personal injury from life-changing events like a commercial truck accident. Our firm’s website details the decades of experience that our attorneys have in handling these complex cases. We know how much can be at stake when a truck accident upends a person’s life. Not only are the people directly involved in the accident affected by it, but in many cases, so too are their families.
Semi truck accidents can happen for a variety of reasons, many of which are preventable by either the truck driver or the trucking company. For example, under continuous pressure to timely deliver goods throughout the country, some drivers and their employers may be tempted to haul load sizes that exceed federal regulations. While their reasoning is understandable in some instances, an overloaded truck can lead to many safety concerns and can cause an accident.
Through diligent investigation, our firm has figured out the causes of accidents and determined which parties may be responsible for damages that the accident victims have suffered. People in Orange County who have suffered injury as a result of a truck accident may wish to consider seeking out an experienced attorney to find out their legal options.
Truck accident victims can count on us
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), along with state agencies, is responsible for handling the regulations that commercial trucks must follow in California. The regulations that drivers and truck companies must follow may seem stringent, but they are for a good reason. Large tractor trailers can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, and if anything goes wrong while one is barreling down a California highway, it could cause a major accident with serious injuries. Likewise, even smaller delivery trucks can pose serious dangers, and thus are subject to regulations.
Even with federal and state regulations in place, however, truck accidents still do occur. Whether an accident is due to truck driver fatigue, an overloaded truck that goes out of control or a maintenance problem with the truck, a truck accident can have a devastating impact on the people in other vehicles who are involved in the accident.
When truck accidents happen, it is important for injured victims to understand their legal options. In addition, victims and their families will likely want to seek legal representation from lawyers who are experienced with truck accidents. One of the reasons for this is that the truck company will likely do all that it can to avoid paying any damages, or to at least minimize them as much as possible. Accordingly, they often hire a team of seasoned personal injury defense attorneys.
Our Orange County based law firm is a family-run operation, and we treat every client with the respect that they deserve. At Easton & Easton, we have built our firm by fighting for our clients and diligently pursuing their cases. This is true whether the case involves a multi-party fatal commercial truck accident or a less complex car or bike accident.
The website for our firm includes a number of different pages with information about us and how we devote our resources to helping truck accident victims, as well as other types of clients, pursue damages in personal injury cases. Our website also includes helpful information for people who want a little more legal background before speaking with an attorney. We understand the difficulties in dealing with something like an injury or fatality from a truck accident, and we are committed to helping people get through these situations.
FMCSA, “The Large Truck Crash Causation Study – Analysis Brief,” Accessed on Jan. 12, 2015
California Department of Motor Vehicles, “California Driver Handbook – Alcohol and Drugs,” Accessed on Dec. 10, 2014
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Debunking the Myths on Hours-of-Service,” Accessed on Oct. 21, 2014
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Driving When You Have Sleep Apnea,” Accessed on May 3, 2016
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Cargo Tank Rollover Fact Sheet,” June 11, 2015