New Study Finds Most Common Reasons for Serious Truck Accidents

Nearly 3.5 million truck drivers fill America's roads and serve as an integral part of the nation's economy. Unfortunately, however, because of the prevalence and size of commercial trucks, truck accidents pose a significant risk to other motorists and pedestrians. The most recent data available shows that approximately every 16 minutes a person is killed or injured in a truck accident. Nearly 98 percent of fatalities involve the death of a driver or passenger not in the large truck.

In order to avoid some of the thousands of deaths caused by trucking accidents and to reduce the even greater number of injuries, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently conducted a 33 month study of the causes and conditions of serious truck accidents. During the study, approximately 120,000 fatal and serious injury truck accidents occurred, involving 141,000 large trucks. The study compiled the data into factors that showed the relative risk based on the type of crash.

Relative Risk of Truck Accidents

The study listed 19 factors that were associated most frequently with truck accidents. The highest risk for causing an accident was a cargo shift. This could occur from improper storage. The next highest risk factor was driver illness, followed by the driver making an illegal maneuver or following another vehicle too closely. Other significant risk factors were brake problems and a truck driver's unfamiliarity with the roadway.

Ultimately, the NHTSA and FMCSA categorized driver error into four categories that increased the risk of an accident:

  • Non-performance: Causes risk when a driver falls asleep, has a heart attack or is otherwise unable to drive due to a physical impairment
  • Performance: These errors occur when a driver overreacts or panics and further increases the risk of accident
  • Recognition: This occurs when the driver is distracted or otherwise inattentive to the road
  • Decision: The driver follows another vehicle too closely, is going too fast for the road conditions or misjudges another vehicle's speed or direction

In approximately 4 percent of crashes involving fatalities, truck driver fatigue was listed as the primary reason for the crash. About .06 percent were caused by the driver's consumption of alcohol.

Preventing Crashes

Federal regulations strictly govern how many hours-of-service a truck driver can put in before resting in order to reduce crashes caused by driver fatigue. In addition, laws banning texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving can help to curb truck accidents.

Truck accidents are an unfortunate danger on today's roads. If you or a loved one has been in a truck accident, contact a personal injury attorney familiar with truck accident cases. Contact an attorney early after your accident. There is much-needed investigative work that should be done before the trucking company moves the vehicle. A safety inspection can be done and spoliation of evidence letters must be promptly handled.