Since truckers are professional drivers, you’re right to wonder why so many 18-wheelers cause deadly crashes. And you’re not the only one wondering—the federal government is, too. That’s why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates trucking safety, commissioned a study to find out what makes truckers cause fatal crashes.
Warning: the top causes are simply appalling, as these mistakes that kill people are violations of the most basic rules of safe driving that even ordinary drivers are expected to honor.
Statistics on the 10 Major Causes of Fatal Trucking Accidents
Using fatal large truck crash data from 2017, the study concluded these are the top causes of fatal accidents by semi drivers:
- Speeding – Truckers drive 80,000-pound monster machines that are horrifyingly difficult to stop and they really do know it's critical to avoid speeding because it truly is a deadly sin for a trucker. Sadly, too many of them just get to wrapped up in making an on-time delivery, sacrificing our safety.
- Distraction/inattention – This includes the most dangerous article in any vehicle: a cell phone. But it also includes just daydreaming, being lost in thought, or even eating. I’ve written on how truckers know way more than us that they can’t afford to drive distracted.
- Failure to yield right of way – This could be turning left in front of an innocent driver who has a green light. Or blowing through an intersection while a car tries to finish going through it. The results are devastating.
- Impairment – Likely the most disturbing factor, not to mention it’s in the top 5! As you might expect, this includes impairment from drugs or alcohol, which for a trucker is a death wish for the rest of us on the roads. Interestingly, the study includes some unexpected definitions of impaired. One of them is from fatigue. Overworked truckers are such a supreme safety concern there are federal regulations limiting the amount of time they can drive. This remains a regular concern in any tractor-trailer accident and can form the basis for punitive damages against the trucker and the trucking company who allowed him to do it.
- Careless driving – This is almost a catch-all definition that could define almost any driving mistake. The fact a professional driver entrusted with the most enormous machines we let out on the highway could ever drive careless is plain astonishing.
- Vision obscured by weather, roadway design, vehicles, etc. - While it’s hard to conceive a trucker would have vision obscured by anything when he sits so high above the road with an enormous windshield, this factor just shows truckers should be expected to be more vigilant than the rest of us. As for bad weather, truckers are expected to overcome this because they are highly trained and held to a high legal standard by federal regulations.
- Failure to keep in the proper traffic lane – It’s easy for us ordinary drivers to understand how driving a 40-ton machine might be hard to maintain a lane. But we aren’t professionals, truckers are. This is unacceptable. “Stay in your lane, bro.”
- Failure to obey traffic signs, traffic lights or traffic officers and failure to obey safety zone traffic laws – There’s just no excuse for a professional trucker to ignore a stop sign, red light, or police directing traffic. Sadly, truckers ignoring construction work zone safety rules are a key cause of wrecks with injuries and deaths.
- Following improperly – We all know the term for this: tailgating. When you’re driving an 18-wheeler, it’s just menacing, and it’s no surprise this is a top cause of fatal crashes. Truckers are expected to know extensive safety guidelines to keep this from happening. Apparently, it’s not enough.
- Overcorrecting – This can happen when a trucker goes through a curve wrong, creating one of the most horrifying crashes on any road: the rollover.
What’s Really Behind These Causes and What Do We Do About It?
If your family suffered a deadly trucking accident, life is traumatized and overwhelming enough. You’ll need legal help for a lot of reasons, but for you, chief among them is trucking cases are much more complicated than an ordinary car crash.
And there very well may be someone behind this case that wasn’t out on the road – the trucking company.
That’s why the law allows the trucking company to be held accountable for mistakes it helped create, which led to the crash. Sometimes that’s where the challenge starts—do you really even know who the trucking company is?
Don’t risk losing compensation your family might really need. Get your questions answered by an experienced fatal trucking accident attorney who’s written a book on car crash cases that includes a chapter on 18-wheeler accidents. Download the book for FREE.
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