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Danger of Large Truck Accidents

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It’s not hard to understand that, given the size and weight of tractor trailers and other large commercial motor vehicles, getting into a truck accident represents a dangerous situation. A truck accident poses a serious risk of catastrophic injury or death.

In a collision involving a truck weighing 10,000 pounds or more and a 2,000 pound passenger car, the passenger car is going to absorb the brunt of the impact every time. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says 1 in 10 highway deaths occurs in a crash involving a large truck and most deaths in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants.

There are far more large trucks on the roads today than a decade ago. Interstate 40 and Interstate 95 carry thousands of 18 wheelers across North Carolina each week. According to the North Carolina Highway Patrol, the driver of a tractor trailer headed southbound on I-95 near Rocky Mount on January 25 fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a bridge abutment. The driver told WTVD that he was trying to make it to a truck stop at Kenly to rest, but nodded off. Fortunately, the truck driver’s bad decision did not cause injury to any other motorists. Unfortunately, many other truck accidents have. The number of people killed in truck accident collisions in North Carolina in 2013 was the highest total in the last five years.

North Carolina Traffic Accident Deaths Involving Large Trucks

Year 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
No. of Deaths 128 117 117 127 138

Source: NHTSA

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The heavier weight and longer braking distances of tractor trailers are primary contributors to the severity of wrecks. Driver fatigue, caused by the long hours truck drivers are required to spend behind the wheel, is another common factor in commercial truck accidents, according to the IIHS.

Among the common types of truck accidents are:

  • Rear end collisions
  • Head on collisions
  • Jackknifes
  • Rollovers
  • Sideswipes
  • T-bone or side collision crashes (turning across or into path of oncoming vehicle)
  • Cargo shifts
  • Cargo spills

4Underride accidents are collisions involving large trucks and smaller vehicles. Because commercial trucks are taller and have greater ground clearance than cars, lower riding vehicles can slide beneath truck trailers with deadly consequences.

Rear underride guards on trucks are supposed to prevent underride accidents from occurring, but IIHS research shows that guards meeting federal safety standards can fail even in relatively low speed crashes.

Accidents Involving Large Trucks in North Carolina in 2013

All Crashes Fatal Crashes Injury Crashes
Tractor Semi Trailer 3462 53 1,029
Double Trailers 74 1 25
Truck Tractor 203 5 56

Source: NCDOT

Contributing Factors in Truck Accidents

Among the most common factors that contribute to truck accidents, according to a federal report called the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, are:

  • Brake problems (failure, misalignment)
  • Unfamiliarity with the roadway
  • Inadequate surveillance (failing to look)
  • Speeding
  • Traveling too fast for road conditions
  • Illegal maneuver (improper passing, turns)
  • Distracted driving/inattention
  • Misunderstanding or wrongly predicting another driver’s actions
  • Work pressure (driving too fast or too long to meet pick-up / delivery meet deadlines).
  • Drowsy driving

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The Costs of Large Truck Crashes

A study by the NTSC said large truck crashes cause losses due to:

  • Medical costs
  • Emergency services costs
  • Lost productivity (lost work time from injuries and additional travel time resulting from vehicle delays)
  • Emissions costs
  • Excess fuel consumption costs

Individuals or families that suffer injuries and other losses in a truck accident may seek to recover compensation in a legal claim. Such a claim may hold the truck driver, trucking company, truck, or truck parts manufacturer(s), or other third parties, such as local contractors or government responsible for hazardous road conditions, liable.

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