According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are approximately 10 fatal truck accidents and truck crashes that result in a shocking 284 injuries each day throughout the United States. With fatal trucking accidents up approximately 18 percent since 2009, and those that cause injuries up an estimated 23 percent, it is obvious that something needs to be done.
A good place to start would be for truckers, drivers of other vehicles sharing the road with truckers, and even bicyclists and pedestrians to develop a better understanding of what causes so many catastrophic accidents. In 2007, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration decided to become proactive in the investigation of large truck accidents. They released a report, called The Large Truck Causation Study, which is the first of its kind to examine the true causes of large truck related accidents.
10 of the Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents According to the Study
The study evaluated a sample of 967 large truck accidents nationwide. 1,127 large truck and 959 vehicles of other types were involved in the study. The accidents investigated resulted in an alarming 251 fatalities and 1,408 injuries. The top 10 causes of big rig accidents according to the study are shocking.
- While driver fatigue was expected to have been the top cause of large truck accidents, it made its place further down the list for this study. According to the study, the most common cause of trucking accidents is actually drug use. In fact, an alarming 26 percent of the accidents studied revealed that prescription or illegal drug use had an impact on the driver’s reaction time.
- The second most common cause of large truck accidents was speeding. Crunched deadlines make speeding a temptation for many truckers, but succumbing to the temptation to speed can have catastrophic results. For each mile of increased speed, the impact of a massive 80,000 pound truck is more devastating.
- Not being familiar with the roadways in the areas that truckers were traveling was a major cause in a whopping 22 percent of large truck accidents.
- Accident causes are not limited to the use of prescription or illegal drugs. In a disturbing 18 percent of accidents studied, the use of over the counter medications was discovered to be a contributing factor.
- Blind spots have always been a big concern for truckers and other drivers who are sharing the road, so it is not surprising that 14 percent of accidents involved the truck driver not checking his or her blind spots thoroughly enough. While it is essential for truckers to take the initiative to check for other vehicles before making a move, the drivers of other vehicles need to be aware of potential blind spots and avoid them whenever possible as well.
- Although countless measures have been taken throughout the past few years to ensure that truckers are getting adequate sleep and rest periods, approximately 13 percent of large truck accidents involved drivers who were fatigued. It is important to note that driver fatigue can sometimes be related to high stress levels, medications, alcohol use, and poor diet, and is not just related to drive time.
- Illegal maneuvering by the trucker, like failing to use a turn signal was at least partially responsible for 9 percent of accidents involving large trucks.
- Distracted driving has been a major topic for safety advocates for many years, and legislation is in place that is intended to reduce the number of drivers who operate while distracted by cellphones, multimedia devices, and other electronics. As the study reveals, however, distracted driving continues to remain a problem. In 8 percent of accidents studied, distracted driving played a role. The events reported were not always due to the use of electronics, however. Many were actually due to the trucker becoming distracted by events outside the truck like accidents or roadwork.
- Big rigs can be difficult to maneuver, especially in emergency situations. According to the study, the truckers lack of realizing the level of evasive action needed to avoid an accident was involved in 7 percent of large truck accidents. In many cases, truckers underestimated the time that it would take them to slow down and they either followed too closely or failed to begin breaking soon enough.
- Aggressive driving and road rage contributed to 7 percent of the large truck accidents studied.
Another major cause of accidents that involve large trucks is equipment failure. Improper maintenance, low quality equipment, unattended repairs, and defective equipment have all been factors in trucking accidents throughout the nation. When equipment on a large truck fails, the result can be catastrophic regardless of how safe the driver, or other drivers around him are.