A car accident is a frightening experience for anyone, and even more so when a truck is involved. Because of the great disparity in size, cars aren't likely to fare well when up against a truck. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; Highway Loss Data Institute (IIHSHLDI) truck accidents claim approximately 4,000 lives every year across the United States.
While traffic safety has increased over the past few decades, truck accidents have actually increased. Truck-related crashes are up 20 percent and truck fatalities are at their highest numbers in 29 years.
Truck driver error
According to a Truck Causation Study conducted over a 33-month long period, many truck-related accidents can be attributed to truck driver error. The study was done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) and looked at the details surrounding thousands of truck crashes that involved at least one fatality. The research found that truck driver fatigue, truck driver impairment and speed were the main contributing factors.
While federal standards are in place to limit the number of hours a truck driver spends on the road without rest, they often go unfollowed. Commercial haulers are under increased pressure to meet tight schedules and deadlines and often drive without adequate rest or time off between shifts. Drivers in a hurry to meet a deadline also tend to speed.
Main areas of driver error
The study outlined four main areas of truck driver error that were responsible for 87 percent of the crashes studied:
- Non-performance: The driver fell asleep at the wheel or was medically disabled by a heart attack, seizure or another medical complication.
- Recognition: The driver was inattentive or distracted by something either inside or outside the vehicle.
- Decision: The driver made poor driving decisions such as speeding, following too closely or misjudging the speed of other vehicles.
- Performance: The driver panicked or overcompensated right before a crash.
Additionally, ten percent of the crashes were the result of vehicle malfunction such as brake failure, a cargo shift or a vehicle systems failure. Other environmental factors contributed as well - weather conditions at the time of the crash, traffic congestion and road conditions.
Across the country, freight traffic and the demand for goods is at an all-time high, so truck traffic and the associated fatalities are likely to increase. Take steps to protect your safety when driving around trucks by giving them the space they need, passing with caution and remembering it takes a truck much longer to stop than your car.