Semi-Truck Accidents by the Numbers
Any type of automobile accident can have catastrophic consequences for any of the parties involved. Tractor trailer accidents, however, generally cause the most serious damage to involved parties. Every day, more than 63 percent of the goods transported across the United States and Mexico travel by truck. That means thousands of hours of driving time for truckers across the nation; and in those thousands of hours, more than eleven people die in truck accidents each day.
The Trucking Industry
The trucking industry provides a vital connection between suppliers and sellers of goods across the country. The United States offers a number of diverse goods, with manufacturing plants and farms producing a wide range of products needed across the nation in several centralized locations. Tractor trailers help get those products where people need and want them.
Semi-Truck Accident Statistics
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration releases a report each year concerning motor vehicle accidents, including truck accidents. According to this year’s report:
- More than 5,000 people died in truck accidents in 2017.
- In 2016, 125,000 large trucks and buses were involved in crashes with injuries.
- 180,000 people suffered injuries in crashes with large trucks or buses.
- In 2016, approximately 418,000 accidents that only resulted in property damage involved large trucks and buses.
- In 2017, 372 pedestrians and 76 cyclists died in accidents with big trucks and buses.
- 2.5 percent of drivers in fatal crashes with big trucks had a BAC over .08 percent. 3.6 percent of drivers in those fatal crashes had a BAC of over .01 percent.
Note that in 2016, more than 12,000,000 registered trucks and buses hit the roads. Most of them safely reached their destinations without causing accidents, let alone accidents with injuries. When big trucks do cause accidents, however, the victims often sustain serious injuries.
Truck accidents have a wide range of causes. However, most truck accidents, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association, fall into one of three categories:
- Running out of the lane that the vehicle should travel in (approximately 32 percent)
- Loss of control of the vehicle for a variety of reasons, including speeding, driving at excessive speeds for the current conditions on the road—even if the speed limit indicates that it is a safe speed to travel, and vehicle systems failure (29 percent)
- Rear-end collisions (22 percent)
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Semi-Truck Accident Cause Statistics
Other factors may contribute to any of these accident types. Other drivers may fail to pay proper attention to the road, whether they choose to drive distracted or fail to note the needs of truck drivers around them. Truck drivers and other drivers may drive fatigued, driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, or fail to follow the rules of the road. Any of these potential accident causes may increase the odds of a truck accident. Drivers suffer accidents more often if they do not know the roadway well. Accident risk may also increase due to congestion or other unanticipated events, including other accidents ahead on the road. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association notes that of its sample:
- 29 percent of total accidents involved brake problems.
- 23 percent of accidents involved speeding.
- 22 percent of accidents involved drivers traveling unfamiliar roads.
- 20 percent of accidents involved roadway problems.
- 17 percent of accidents included prescription drug use by the driver.
- 14 percent of accidents included inadequate surveillance by the driver.
- 13 percent of accidents included driver fatigue.
- 10 percent of accidents involved a commercial driver who felt work pressure from his or her carrier, including pressure to drive despite fatigue or pressure to meet deadlines.
- 9 percent of drivers involved in accidents made an illegal maneuver.
- 8 percent of drivers suffered from external distractions before an accident.
- 6 percent of vehicles had tire problems that contributed to the accident.
- 5 percent of drivers followed too closely.
- 4 percent of vehicles involved in accidents had a cargo shift that unsafely shifted the balance of the truck.
- 3 percent of drivers suffered illness at the time of the accident.
- 2 percent of drivers used illegal drugs at the time of the accident.
- 1 percent of drivers used alcohol at the time of the accident.
This relatively small sample, which included approximately 963 crashes involving 1,123 large trucks and 959 motor vehicles that were not large trucks, offers a clue into potential causes of truck accidents. In some cases, other drivers on the road can help prevent or reduce the odds of truck accidents. In other cases, truck drivers themselves may reduce their odds of accidents. In many cases, however, drivers cannot avoid truck accidents entirely: tire failures, brake problems, road issues, and cargo shifts may occur without warning, leaving drivers struggling to respond appropriately.
Trends in Semi-Truck Accident Statistics
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s report for 2019, data shows that truck accidents increased through 2016 and 2017. In 2017, the number of large trucks involved in fatal accidents increased to 4,657, while in 2016, that number was only 4,251. The percentage of trucks involved in fatal accidents based on miles traveled also increased by 6 percent. In 2016, more than 145,000 people suffered serious injuries in truck accidents—a number substantially higher than the number of truck accidents with injuries reported in previous years. Truck accidents continue to rise, leaving many people struggling to cope with injuries sustained in such accidents.
Understanding Semi-Truck Accidents: Why Semi-Trucks Have Higher Accident Risks
Truck drivers spend countless hours on the road every day. They go through extensive training before receiving their license to operate tractor trailers, and they arguably have more experience than many other drivers on the road. At the same time, however, truck drivers deal with significant difficulties that can increase accident risk on the road. Below we highlight some of those difficulties.
- Trucks weigh significantly more than passenger vehicles. Truck weight may vary based on the truck’s cargo as well as the type of truck. However, trucks may weigh 40 tons or more, while the average passenger vehicle weighs only 2.5 tons. Trucks, therefore, need significantly more stopping room than the average passenger vehicle. Unfortunately, many drivers fail to recognize the increased stopping needs of trucks, and therefore may dart in front of them without leaving adequate stopping room. Truck drivers may also struggle, even at the best of times, to react fast enough to prevent an accident.
- Truck drivers often spend longer hours on the road than other drivers. Truck drivers may drive for up to eight full hours before taking a break, and they can legally drive for 11 hours out of a 14-hour duty shift. Many truck drivers stay on the road in spite of fatigue or drifting attention. They may struggle to pay attention to everything going on around them, or they may lack full focus on the road after those hours.
- Trucks have more mass than passenger vehicles. They require more room to maneuver and are often navigating roads designed for passenger vehicles rather than tractor trailers. As a result, trucks may travel slower. Driver impatience coupled with an inability to understand the needs of truck drivers may increase the risk of accidents with a tractor trailer.
- Truck drivers drive for a living. Many receive compensation by the mile. In some cases, truck drivers may take chances to increase the number of miles that they can travel over an average work shift. Other truck drivers may work while they are sick, injured, or excessively fatigued from other activities prior to their duty shifts. If they do not work, they do not receive compensation, which for many makes driving under these conditions a necessity.
- The average driver receives little education on big trucks. Most drivers receive little information about big trucks on the road, from the amount of space that they need to maneuver to the time it takes them to stop. Unfortunately, this misinformation significantly increases accident risk when drivers fail to offer adequate patience and room for truckers.
- Trucks often cause more serious damage. Trucks have much more mass than the average passenger vehicle, and many passenger vehicles have little protection against them. As a result, passengers in those vehicles may suffer more serious injuries.
Don’t Become a Semi-Truck Accident Statistic
With truck accidents that involve serious injuries and fatalities on the rise, you want to avoid becoming a statistic if at all possible. Big trucks continue to fill the roads, and to keep yourself safe, you should follow basic safety precautions, which are discussed below.
- Look out for blind spots. If you’ve ever driven a large vehicle, even a truck or van, you know that blind spots can make it impossible to see other cars moving around you. Tractor trailers have even larger blind spots, and those blind spots can lead to serious accidents, even if drivers exercise the utmost care. If you must drive beside or behind a tractor trailer, look for the truck driver’s mirrors. If you cannot see the mirror, the driver cannot see you. If possible, avoid sitting in a truck’s blind spot. If necessary, accelerate to move forward so that they can see you, or reduce your speed so that you fall behind them. If you must cruise beside a truck, pay attention to traffic patterns and the truck’s movements.
- Do not pull over abruptly in front of a tractor trailer. Tractor trailers need more room to stop than traditional vehicles. Pulling over abruptly in front of one, causing the driver to slam on the brakes, may cause an accident. Even if the truck misses you, the driver may lose control of the trailer and cause a jackknife accident. Keep in mind that trucks need significantly more room to stop than the average passenger vehicle, and plan your movements accordingly.
- Pay attention to truck drivers on the road. Truck drivers need to make wide turns. If they get pushed into too tight of a space, they may cause an accident or get stuck, which can increase the likelihood of accidents further down the road. If you see a truck driver signaling to turn, make sure that they have room to make that wide turn. Avoid cramming yourself into the space beside them, which could lead to an accident. If you see a truck driver showing visible signs of fatigue or driving under the influence, pull off the road and notify the police. Avoid trying to run down a truck driver yourself, even if you find his or her driving unsafe.
- Exercise patience. Many drivers quickly become frustrated when they must share the road with a tractor trailer. They likely want to get on with their day as soon as possible, and the truck’s presence may prevent that. If you share the road with a tractor trailer, however, exercise patience. The truck driver likely wants to get on with his or her day just as badly as you do, but no one wants to suffer injuries in an accident—which will create an even larger drain on your time.
- Keep your distance. Just as you should avoid driving for long stretches in a truck’s blind spot, try to avoid coming up right on a truck driver’s bumper. A smaller vehicle can get pushed under a truck during an accident. If you position yourself too close to a truck, the truck driver may back into you without noticing your presence. Pay particular attention on steep inclines, where the likelihood increases that a truck may roll backward.
- Learn the right signals. If you flash your lights at truck drivers who need to change lanes, you are letting them know that they have room to move over. Likewise, a truck driver flashing his or her lights lets you know that you may safely move in front of him or her. Communicating safely with truck drivers on the road helps keep everyone safe.
- Learn how to pass safely. Getting stuck behind a big truck often causes frustration for drivers, especially those in a hurry to reach their destination. Zipping around a truck and darting straight in front of it, however, quickly leads to accidents. Instead, pass safely. Leave adequate room behind you for a truck to slow or brake if necessary.
You Need a Lawyer After a Tractor Trailer Accident
If you suffered injuries in a tractor trailer accident, you may need legal help to assist you in securing compensation for the full cost of your injuries. Call Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA Accident Injury Lawyers today at (727) 451-6900, or contact us online, to work with a dedicated team of legal professionals who will help you determine the amount of compensation that you should request. We have offices conveniently located in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and New Port Richey. From negotiating with insurance companies to helping our clients take their cases to court, we have helped many past clients achieve resolution after their truck accidents.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765