Modern large trucks are equipped with a wide range of advanced safety technology, including forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, and automatic emergency braking. However, despite these improvements in safety technology, the number of catastrophic injuries and fatalities associated with truck accidents has been steadily inclining since 2009. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2019, 5,005 people were fatally injured in accidents involving large trucks, which is a 48 percent increase from 2009. In addition, the number of serious injuries associated with crashes involving large trucks increased by 115 percent.
Due to the massive size and weight of a large truck compared to the average passenger vehicle, it is usually the occupants of the passenger vehicle involved in the accident that suffer the most severe, often fatal, injuries. An experienced lawyer will assist a truck accident victim with the claims process and ensure that they receive the financial compensation they deserve for their injuries.
The study conducted by the NHTSA defined large trucks as any commercial or non-commercial truck with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds. Depending on the truck and the other vehicle involved, a large truck can weigh up to 30 times more than a passenger vehicle. This makes passenger vehicles extremely vulnerable to accidents, particularly during inclement weather, if the truck has not been properly maintained, or if the truck driver is engaging in unsafe driving behavior.
Large trucks are also taller and have a higher ground clearance, which means that a passenger vehicle can slide underneath the truck in the event of a crash. The number of registered trucks and miles travelled has also increased between 2009 and 2018, which has had an impact on the number of serious and fatal accidents. According to the Director of Enforcement Data and Judicial Outreach at the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, additional research is needed to determine why serious truck accidents are on the rise, considering the significant improvements in safety technology.
What are the Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
Most serious truck accidents are caused by some type of driver error. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in 2017, just over half of the passenger vehicle occupants involved in fatal truck accidents were considered at fault, and truck driver error was a factor in close to one-third of the accidents. Regardless of who caused the accident, the occupants of the passenger vehicles often suffered the most devastating injuries and fatalities. The following are examples of some of the most common causes of truck accidents:
- Drowsy driving: This continues to be a serious problem in the trucking industry due to the tight delivery deadlines and the long hours behind the wheel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that being awake for 18 consecutive hours or more is comparable to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.05 percent. While truck drivers are required to follow federal hours of service (HOS) regulations, drivers do not always comply with these rules.
- Distracted driving: A 2009 study by the FMCSA found that 71 percent of commercial vehicle crashes and 46 percent of near-crashes were caused by distracted driving. If a truck driver’s attention is distracted by a phone call, a text message, or an object in the vehicle, the consequences can be catastrophic if they are unable to slow down or stop in time to avoid hitting another vehicle.
- Work zone hazards: Many truck accidents occur in work zones. Increased traffic closed lanes and narrower roads can increase the risk of a serious truck accident. Rear-end collisions are the most common type of accidents that occur in work zones. Motorists often fail to realize that trucks require more room to stop compared to cars, particularly if the truck is travelling at a high speed.
- Drunk or drugged driving: If a truck driver has alcohol or drugs in their system, it can impact their ability to maintain control of the truck, react quickly to unexpected situations, and pay attention to other vehicles in the vicinity. In addition to alcohol, marijuana, and other narcotics, over-the-counter medications can also cause drowsiness and other side effects that can increase the risk of a serious truck accident.
What Should I Do Immediately Following a Truck Accident?
If the occupants of the passenger vehicle involved in a truck accident were fortunate enough to have survived the crash, they should move the vehicle to the side of the road and turn on the hazard lights if possible. Call 911 immediately so that the police and emergency medical technicians can be sent to the accident scene.
If the victim is able to do so, they should collect important information, including the license plate number, make and model of the truck, the truck driver’s license number, the information of their employer as well as their insurance information. The motorist should also take pictures of their injuries, debris in the road, and any other evidence that may help determine who caused the accident.
Once first responders arrive at the scene, the injured victim should seek immediate medical attention, even if there are no obvious injuries. Certain injuries, like head injuries or internal bleeding, may not show up right away, particularly when adrenaline is coursing through the body after the shock of the accident. It is also highly recommended that truck accident victims contact an experienced lawyer who will protect their legal rights and walk them through every phase of the claims process.
How can I Avoid a Devastating Truck Accident?
Many of these tragic accidents can be avoided if motorists use extreme caution when sharing the road with a large truck. The FMCSA urges motorists to keep the following safety tips in mind at all times:
- Avoid a truck’s blind spot. Trucks have very large blind spots, particularly on the left side under the cab mirror and on the right side under the cab mirror. Motorists are responsible for avoiding these blind spots. A good rule of thumb to follow is if the motorist cannot see the truck driver in the side mirror, the truck driver cannot see the motorist.
- Use caution when passing. Never attempt to pass a large truck until it is visible in the rear view mirror. Do not pass a truck from the right lane or if travelling on a downgrade where a truck will pick up speed. Always give large trucks plenty of room, and stay to the right if it is possible.
- Do not cut off a large truck. Cutting off another vehicle is always dangerous, but it is particularly dangerous when the other vehicle is a large truck. A passenger vehicle is more likely to be rear-ended if it ends up in the truck’s blind spot in front of the cab, or the truck did not have enough road space to slow down.
- Never tailgate. Motorists who follow too closely behind a truck run the risk of rear-ending the truck. Depending on how fast the car is travelling, it could end up gliding underneath the truck, which can cause devastating injuries and fatalities.
- Understand that trucks make wide turns. Motorists are also expected to understand that large trucks make very wide turns. This may require the truck driver to swing wide in order to be able to make the turn. Motorists should never try to pass a truck that is turning or squeeze by a turning truck and the curb.
- Be patient. Large trucks simply do not operate the same way that passenger vehicles do. For example, they take longer to accelerate and slow down. Motorists must take this into account and avoid becoming impatient or frustrated. In addition, drivers are strongly urged to use extra caution, avoid distractions, always wear a seat belt, and follow the rules of the road when driving in the vicinity of a large truck.
Encino Truck Accident Lawyers at ACTS Law Represent Victims of Catastrophic Truck Accidents
If you were seriously injured in a devastating truck accident, do not hesitate to contact the Encino truck accident lawyers at ACTS Law. Our dedicated and compassionate legal team will assist you with every step of the claims process. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW or contact us online. From our offices located in Los Angeles and San Diego, we serve clients throughout Southern California.