Truck Safety

Trucking Accident: Size, Weight Increase Danger

Statistics about large truck accidents can be deceptive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 805 truck occupants killed, and 23,000 injured, in truck accidents in 2017. But only about 16% of those killed, and 22% of those injured, were drivers or passengers in the trucks themselves. The rest were drivers and passengers of cars, or motorcyclists, or pedestrians, all terrorized by a 40-ton truck suddenly upon them.

It is also misleading to read that in motor vehicle accidents in 2017, large trucks represented only 8% of vehicles in fatal crashes, 3% of vehicles in injury crashes, and 4% of vehicles in crashes that involved only property damage. Because of their sheer size, these huge trucks cause more substantial injuries than can smaller vehicles. Big trucks can weigh 80,000 pounds, 16 times the weight of the average car. It can take 40% longer for big trucks to brake than it takes the average vehicle. So when a truck is exceeding the speed limit, or a truck driver does not have adequate time to brake, consequent injuries can be devastating indeed.

Studies of trucking accidents indicate that the most serious injuries may involve the brain or spinal cord. Spinal cord injury can result in loss of movement or feeling, or in paralysis. Brain injury, which sometimes is not visible and is missed in initial emergency room examinations, has a wide range of traumatic effects:

  • Loss of memory
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Depression or other mental health problems
  • Diminishment of eyesight
  • Hearing loss
  • Retardation

Truck accidents also can cause a number of less serious injuries – although they can be equally painful and may be just as likely to generate exorbitant medical costs and loss of wages. These can include broken bones – a hip, a leg, an arm – and various internal injuries caused by the impact of the truck or by being thrown from an auto.

Huge trucks can be intimidating, with good reason: who knows if the company and the driver make safety a top priority?

Organizations such as the American Automobile Association say that drivers of automobiles and other motor vehicles could reduce the number and severity of car-truck accidents by being more aware of the dangers of big trucks, and by following some safety recommendations:

  • Avoid driving for long periods of time next to semi trucks because of wind turbulence that could force a car off the road.
  • When passing a truck, make sure both of the truck’s headlights are visible in the rearview mirror before returning to the lane in front of the truck.
  • Do not speed up when a truck is trying to pass you; give the truck adequate time and space to return to your lane.
  • When a truck is making a right-hand turn, never move your automobile to the right, into the truck driver’s blind spot.

But it is unfair, and unrealistic, to suggest that the responsibility for preventing car-truck accidents lies with drivers of cars that are one-sixteenth the size of large trucks. Who knows when the truck’s brakes last passed a safety inspection, whether scheduled maintenance and repair was done, whether the trucker has a valid license, or has had enough sleep to remain alert?  Who knows whether a too-heavy, unbalanced load will cause a truck to jackknife, making the trailer swing around and broadside a passenger vehicle?

The trucking industry – both corporate owners of trucking companies and associations of truckers – recognizes that it has a vested interest in truck safety. The industry cooperates with consumer groups, Federal and state government agencies, and other organizations to determine standards of safety that will prevent truck accidents and protect truckers, passengers, motor vehicle drivers, and pedestrians.

Spurred by legislation and consumer concern, many commercial trucking companies have taken concrete steps to improve the maintenance of their trucks and to train truckers in preventive and cautionary safety measures. The American Trucking Association, an industry group, is calling for improving the licensing system for commercial truck drivers, enforcement of rules that weed out bad drivers, increased drug testing, greater funding for state and federal roadside inspection, more roadside rest stops, and shorter driving hours for truckers.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a consumer advocacy group, weighs in with recommendations for freezing the size and weight of big trucks. AHAS also supports regulations to reduce driver fatigue, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates is a contributing factor in as many as 30% to 40% of all heavy truck accidents.

Despite consensus that truck safety must be improved, and considerable effort on the part of both the public and private sectors, the fact is, truck accidents continue to be a serious problem. When a semi truck or 18-wheeler is involved in an accident, the resulting deaths or serious injuries can turn a family’s life upside down in a split second: a beloved father struck down, a nurturing mother maimed, or children killed before parents can see them blossom into adulthood. The physical, emotional, and financial consequences can be devastating.

When this happens, experienced legal counsel is critical to preserving victims’ rights to recovery from the parties responsible. Our attorneys have more than 30 years experience representing victims and families involved in truck accidents. If you or a family member has been injured in a truck accident, please fill in our Contact Form, or call us to learn more and arrange a free confidential consultation.