Highways across the U.S. are filled with semi-trucks moving trillions of dollars in freight and goods every year. In Washington State, these large trucks transport freight ranging from aircraft, space, and ship equipment to fish, wheat, and apples. The state’s most valuable exports are carried by semi-trucks on interstates that share the road with the driving public. Most of the time, cars and large trucks co-exist without incident. But occasionally, drivers face dangerous and unavoidable circumstances on the road. When semi-trucks are involved in or cause these conditions, the likelihood of suffering a severe injury or even death increases dramatically.
Road users generally drive in a cautious and safe manner, but unfortunately, mistakes are made, high-risk behavior happens and judgment is impaired. Speeding, distracted driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are among the most common factors that lead to the nearly seven million accidents that occur on U.S. roads each year.
Statistics – Semi-Truck Accidents
Of those nearly seven million crashes, large trucks are involved in seven to eight percent nationwide according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) crash statistics for 2020. In Washington State, semi-trucks were involved in on average six percent of all reported accidents since 2017.
Not all crashes that involve semi-trucks are the fault of a truck driver or are caused by a semi-truck. In fact, the majority are not; passenger vehicle drivers contribute to many of them. However, it is difficult to accurately quantify the number of accidents caused by semi-trucks because of incomplete reporting and competing sets of facts. Metadata suggests semi-trucks cause between 2-3% of all crashes each year.
Given their size and weight, semi-trucks cause more damage and injury than other smaller motor vehicles on the road. Fatalities and severe injuries happen at a greater rate as compared to passenger vehicles. Especially for occupants of other vehicles involved, the risk of death or severe injury is much higher than for occupants of semi-trucks.
A Washington State Department of Transportation (“WSDOT”) report from 2017 – the present shows the average number of crashes per year where at least one of the vehicles involved was a heavy truck (a vehicle with at least 2 axles and 6 tires or larger) is 6,300. 6,300 is approximately six percent of the average/total reported crashes per year of 109,000.
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Causes of Semi Truck Accident
Crashes involving semi-trucks are caused by a multitude of factors. Some are within the control of the truck driver while others are not. Contributing factors include driver behavior, equipment failure, or road conditions. As a passenger vehicle motorist or occupant, you have little control over these sorts of situations. Understanding the common causes can help mitigate your risk and better understand your potential for recovery if you are a victim.
Common factors of semi-truck crash that stem from negligent driver behavior includes:
- Speeding or driving recklessly or aggressively
- Driver error
- Failure to maintain a safe following distance
- Unsafe traffic movement
- Inadequate training
- Inattentive driving
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or while fatigued
- Driving while distracted by a device or another occupant
Common factors of semi-truck crashes that are often outside the control of the driver include:
- Poor road conditions from weather, road damage, and poor visibility lead to blind spots
- Vehicle equipment failure or malfunction
- Improper maintenance
- Driver unfamiliarity or inexperience with the truck or roadway
Avoid situations in which you suspect or see evidence of these behaviors. Always drive with extreme caution around semi-trucks and leave ample space for drivers to brake or swerve to avoid a dangerous situation. If you drive recklessly, a truck driver may be forced to react to you, and could potentially lose control. They need plenty of space to brake and maneuver their rigs, and when they don’t, they can easily cause a collision. A single reckless or inadvertent mistake can have catastrophic or deadly results when a massive semi-truck is involved.
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Efforts to improve road safety continue to be made. One important advancement is in Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) technology which applies the brakes if a driver does not adequately respond to audio or visual warnings. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended for years that AEB and other crash avoidance equipment be uniformly used by U.S. trucking companies. To date, some have employed it. Until the use of these technologies is legally and broadly required, we will continue to see an unacceptably high rate of crashes causing severe injury and death.
Being involved in a commercial truck accident differs considerably from experiencing a passenger vehicle crash. Insurance issues and personal injury cases are often more complex given the myriad of insurance policy provisions, laws, regulations, and multiple parties involved. Determining fault and liability among multiple parties such as the truck driver, the trucking company, the vehicle manufacturer, and the cargo loading company is often complicated. You want an attorney with the experience, knowledge, and track record to recover fair compensation for your injuries and related damages. Coluccio Law will build a compelling case and put you on the strongest footing for gaining results. As an experienced serious truck crash lawyer, I know well how to prove liability taking into account the many variables involved in your truck crash case.
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