Facts About Tractor Trailer Accidents
Large trucks, no matter the type, have the potential to be involved in more fatal multi-vehicle accidents than any other kind of passenger vehicle. In fact, approximately every 15 minutes a person is killed or seriously injured in a trucking accident. These accidents happen nearly every day across Texas and can cause a great deal of pain for those affected. Knowing the facts about tractor trailer accidents and why they happen can help keep drivers aware of the potential dangers. This is important for passenger vehicle drivers, as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found that in crashes involving large trucks and other vehicles, 98 percent of the fatalities were occupants in passenger vehicles.
The Facts About Accidents Involving Tractor Trailers
Sometimes referred to as an 18-wheeler, semi-trucks are comprised of a combination of a tractor unit and one or more semi-trailers attached to them to carry freight. The semi-trailer attaches to the tractor with a fifth wheel hitch to make deliveries to various locations. For Texans in particular, accidents involving these large trucks can be especially deadly.
The number of fatal crashes involving a commercial tractor-trailer truck in Texas jumped nearly 19 percent from 2019 to 2021 and has only increased since. Although statistically, deadly truck crash numbers have been up throughout the United States, Texas has led the nation in related fatalities since 2017.
Keeping this information in mind, it’s important to review the facts about tractor trailer accidents and just how dangerous and deadly they can be for unsuspecting drivers. Some of these facts include:
- Over 440,000 accidents occur annually that involve tractor-trailer trucks; roughly 5,000 are fatal.
- According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one out of every nine fatal roadway accidents involves a tractor-trailer.
- Of those killed in tractor trailer accidents, 97 percent are occupants of other vehicles. Most often, the victim in these incidents is the driver of the smaller vehicle.
- The fatality rate for tractor trailer accidents is nearly double that of accidents involving passenger vehicles.
- In nearly half of all fatal truck accidents, both the truck and the other vehicle were traveling in a straight line with no turns or curves in the road.
- Most fatal truck accidents occur during the day.
- Tire defects account for 30 percent of trucking accidents and are thus the most common cause.
- Up to 30 percent of fatal crashes and 12 percent of accidents involving an injury in work zones were crashes with a big rig.
How Tractor Trailer Accidents Happen
As alarming as the facts about tractor trailer accidents are, drivers need to know what causes them to occur. Numerous factors can lead to a dangerous collision with one of these large commercial vehicles, such as:
Driver fatigue is one of the top reasons why tractor-trailer truck accidents happen. Many drivers work long hours and are often required by management to be awake and driving for long periods despite limits put in place by federal safety regulations. This can ultimately lead to sleep deprivation, which can cause mistakes to happen on the road. Fatigue can also impact a truck driver’s response time and ability to regain control of the rig when faced with a hazard on the road.
Tractor trailers often transport cargo that can include large and heavy materials. Because of this, cargo must be loaded properly to ensure a safe drive as trucks have different loading capacities and thus cargo weight and size limits. Trucks that carry hazardous materials also have to meet certain handling and storage regulations as well.
If cargo is not laded, secured, or regulated, it can quickly lead to a tractor-trailer truck accident. If the material being hauled is unbalanced, it can make driving the vehicle difficult or cause the truck to tip or roll during transport. Materials that are improperly secured or stored can also fall onto the road and create dangerous hazards for other drivers.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol is incredibly dangerous, no matter the type of vehicle. Impaired driving is often a leading risk factor in accidents involving big trucks. Because truck drivers are often expected to work long hours without proper rest breaks, some turn to the use of substances to stay awake.
Drugs and alcohol can also cause side effects that lead to an increased chance an accident will happen. For instance, amphetamine use can cause hallucinations, irritation, and vertigo. Alcohol, on the other hand, can cause drowsiness, decreased concentration, and overall impairment.
The blind spots of large tractor-trailer trucks are very different from those of passenger vehicles due to the comparative difference in size and length of the vehicles. Semi-truck blind spots can be found directly in front of the truck cab, directly behind the trailer, and on the left and right sides of the vehicle. Other motorists should be aware of these potential blind spots, while truck drivers need to exercise the utmost caution when changing lanes, backing out, and making turns to minimize the risk of an accident.
Maintenance Issues and Mechanical Defects
Mechanical issues also play a major role in tractor-trailer truck accidents. Sometimes a diver or a trucking company may not be aware of potential mechanical issues, while other times failures with the vehicle’s mechanics are due to a lack of routine maintenance. Common mechanical issues with trucks include underinflated tires, cracked windshields, lighting outages, transmission failure, faulty steering, brake problems, and other equipment failures.
Texas Panhandle Truck Accident Lawyers
Accidents involving tractor-trailers can be incredibly deadly, even for the most experienced drivers. Oftentimes it is the negligence of the truck driver or trucking company that results in these unfortunate situations. At Lovell, Lovell, Isern & Farabough, LLP, our truck accident lawyers have helped hundreds of clients throughout the Texas Panhandle recover substantial amounts after being injured in accidents that involved a large commercial truck. If you or someone you know has been hurt in a trucking accident, we can help.