The Trucking Industry is More Dangerous Than You Realize
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The following is adapted from Semitruck Wreck.
Like many drivers, you might get a little nervous passing a semitruck on the highway. Maybe you hold your breath and push down on the gas pedal to speed by the wall looming outside your car’s window. Once you’re out of the massive truck’s shadow, you let out a sigh of relief.
Sharing the road with semitrucks is nerve-wracking, but how dangerous is it, really?
Probably more than you think. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, of the approximately 475,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in 2016, there were 3,864 fatal crashes and 104,000 injury crashes. Between 2009 and 2017, there was a 40 percent increase in fatal crashes involving commercial motor vehicles. And the government is predicting an increase in this number in 2020 and beyond.
Let’s take a look at why so many accidents happen involving commercial trucks and what that danger means for you as a driver—or, worst-case scenario, a victim.
What Causes Trucking Accidents?
Looking at the statistics, you might wonder: Why are there so many trucking accidents?
The answer is both simple and tragic. By its very mission—to get goods from point A to point B as quickly as possible—people are at the mercy of the enormous rigs running on our roadways. There is no doubt that speeding is one of the primary causes of large truck wrecks.
As a result of a strong economy and a higher demand for getting products delivered quickly, there has been an increase in both the number of truck wrecks and the number of resulting fatalities over the last several years. The shortened delivery schedules inherent to online shopping add to the pressures that trucking companies are already under to get goods to their destination quickly. This means that the companies, in turn, put more pressure on the drivers. The result is that truck drivers are going way too fast, putting the public at enormous risk.
Speeding Kills, Especially in Suboptimal Driving Conditions
While semitruck drivers are pressed to go too fast in normal situations, the real dangers occur when they drive too fast in suboptimal conditions, like bad weather or construction zones.
Most state commercial driver license manuals mandate that if the pavement is wet, drivers must decrease their speed by one-third. When driving on packed snow, they’re supposed to decrease the speed of their truck by 50 percent; and if there’s ice, they should get off the road as soon as they can.
Good companies with good drivers who are driving good equipment are going to adhere to those procedures. However, it’s not unusual to see those lower-level drivers driving on packed snow at the speed limit, rather than at a decreased speed like they are supposed to.
Similarly, speeding through construction zones is another issue that creates enormous problems for everyone. As soon as I see the construction zone signs go up, I know that people are going to get seriously injured or die. The stories are always the same: a semi plows into the back of stopped traffic because the driver is going way too fast through a construction zone and is either distracted or asleep at the wheel.
The trucking industry has good standards; the problem is that too many drivers aren’t following them.
What You Can Do as a Driver Sharing the Road
So, what can you do to make sharing the road with semitrucks safer?
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to change the way the trucking industry operates. You can, however, ensure that you aren’t adding to your risk on the road by avoiding driving distracted, impaired, too aggressively, or while sleep deprived. Try to stay out of trucks’ blind spots and don’t cross lanes too close in front of or behind them. Drive extra carefully in bad weather conditions or through construction sites. In general, practice safe driving habits.
While you can only do so much to prevent an accident, you can protect yourself after becoming the victim of a semitruck wreck by hiring an experienced, board-certified truck accident attorney. You are going to need someone who has the specific and unique qualifications to make sure your rights are protected and that you receive everything you are entitled to from the trucking company.
Stay Aware on the Road
I don’t want you to be afraid of driving, but the next time your palms sweat at you pass a semitruck on the highway, know that your concern is justified. Trucks kill or catastrophically injure thousands of people every year. The trucking industry has accepted this human price as the unavoidable cost of doing business.
While you can’t control whether truckers speed or drive recklessly, you can make sure that your own driving is as safe as possible. Pay attention to the road, respect dangerous conditions, and follow driving laws. If a crash happens anyway despite your best efforts, hire an attorney who is skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced in handling trucking accidents. A lawyer that is board certified in truck accident law will have the necessary knowledge and expertise to get you the compensation you deserve from the trucking company that injured you.
David W. Craig is the managing partner at the law firm of Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC. He is board certified in Truck Accident Law. David sits on the board of regents for the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys (ATAA) and has over 30 years of experience representing truck accident victims. David is a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and a proud recipient of the Thurgood Marshall “Fighting for Justice” Award. He was also named a top 10 trucking trial lawyer in Indiana by the National Trial Lawyers Association. To connect with David, visit ckflaw.com.
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