Weighing 20 to 30 times more than most cars, SUVs, and pickups, it only makes sense that most deaths in semi-truck crashes are the occupants of passenger vehicles. In fact, of the 3,660 people who died in truck crashes in 2014, sixty-eight percent were passenger vehicle occupants. At least some of these accidents are caused by the fact that large trucks cannot stop quickly, and aren’t easy to maneuver if evasive action is needed.
Common Causes of Big Truck Accidents
When the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) took a closer look at the crash data, they found that where driver behaviors played a critical role in these accidents four categories could be applied:
- Performance – where the driver failed to maintain control of the vehicle by overcompensating, panicking, etc.
- Decision – where the driver made poor operating decisions, such as speeding, tailgating, misjudging traffic speed, etc.
- Recognition – the driver failed to recognize a critical situation because they were not paying attention, were distracted, or some other reason
- Non-performance related issues – where the accident was not performance related, instead the driver crashed because of a heart attack, seizure, fell asleep, etc.
When the FMCSA took a closer look at associated truck passenger vehicle crash factors they found that the 10 most common issues were:
- Traffic flow interruption
- Being unfamiliar with the route they are driving
- Inadequate surveillance
- Driving too fast for environmental, roadway, or traffic conditions
- Making an illegal maneuver
- Not paying attention
- An illness or other physical health issue
- Misjudging the actions of other drivers
- Distracted driving
The causal and associated factors involved in the crashes tend to lead to serious crashes including four of the most common types of large truck passenger vehicle accidents –
Jackknife – when a big rig has so slow or stop quickly, its cargo trailer can swing out and around towards the cab, forming a 90-degree angle. As the trailer swings around, it can clip, drag, and flip smaller vehicles in its path as well as cause the cab of the trailer to flip or roll over.
Underride – when a passenger vehicle collides with the side or rear of a big rig, it can slide underneath the carriage. Though most large trucks have guards to prevent underride, it still happens, and when it does, the injuries to the occupants of the passenger vehicle can be severe if not catastrophic.
Override – when a big truck is speeding, tailgating, or having braking issues, its cab can ride up on a passenger car in front of it. As with underride crashes, the injuries sustained in these types of collisions are usually significant and often fatal.
Rollover – when a truck driver takes a turn too fast, or oversteers in an evasive maneuver it can roll over on its side. This type of accident generally occurs if the driver is going to fast around a turn or overcompensates during a maneuver, is experiencing an equipment failure, or if its cargo is not balanced and properly secured.
In some of these incidents, the truck driver may not be the only one responsible. The companies that load the cargo, perform maintenance, own or lease the rig, or that hire the driver may also be liable for any injuries or property damage that occurred in the crash.
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