Commercial truck driving is becoming one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.), trucking accidents are the leading cause of occupational death for truck drivers above all other risks and health conditions. More than 1 in 3 long-haul truck drivers have experienced a serious accident during their career, many resulting in fatalities of others who share the road.
Accident Trends In the Trucking Industry In a 10-year study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A.), researchers found the following trends to illustrate a growing prevalence of serious and fatal accidents involving large trucks on American roads:
- 1 out of 4 fatal trucking accidents occurred on interstates.
- 58% of fatal trucking accidents occurred in rural areas.
- 78% of fatal trucking accidents occurred on weekdays.
- Fatalities in large trucking accidents increased 9% from 2016 to 2017, a difference of 406 deaths.
- Fatalities in large trucking accidents increased 12% from 2008 to 2017, a difference of 568 deaths.
- Trucking fatalities dramatically dropped in 2009 to 3,380 deaths but have been rising ever since.
- 32% of fatal trucking accidents occurred in head-on collisions.
- 21% of fatal trucking accidents occurred when other vehicles rear-ended a large truck.
- Large trucks are rear-ended 3 times more often than other vehicles.
- Drivers of large trucks have a higher percentage of recorded crashes than any other motor vehicle.
When large trucks are involved in an accident, the damages are often catastrophic. Long-haul trucks, or large trucks, are massive vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds. Some loaded vehicles can exceed 35,000 pounds. In these cases, pedestrian vehicles often don’t stand a chance upon impact.
In 2017, the N.H.T.S.A. reported 4,761 fatalities and over 115,000 injuries related to large trucking accidents. Truck drivers accounted for 841 deaths and over 30,000 injuries; the remainder of people injured and killed were pedestrians or occupants of other motor vehicles in the crash.
Risks That Lead To Trucking Accidents
Long-haul truck drivers face far more risks on the road than other motorists. The weight and size of their vehicles alone can cause difficulty maneuvering around road hazards such as construction, congestion, inclement weather (ice and snow), or pedestrians that enter the roadways. It takes a truck about 390 feet to come to a complete stop going at moderate speeds with working brakes.
There are two categories of risk factors facing truck drivers that increase their chances for motor vehicle accidents: direct (risks they have control over) and indirect (risks they have little control over).
- Intoxicated Driving: At least 3 percent of truck drivers involved in fatal accidents had a Blood Alcohol Content (B.A.C.) over the legal limit. Drunk driving diminishes a driver’s ability to operate their vehicle safely with all motor vehicles. However, trucks can cause more damage when things go wrong.
- Distracted Driving: Long-haul truck drivers can be more likely to participate in distractive driving behaviors as they spend most of their day behind the wheel. Eating meals, talking on the phone, or daydreaming may become second nature while driving, but their risk for accidents remains the same.
- Fatigued Driving: Fatigued driving is both a direct and indirect risk of truck driving. Truck drivers have a responsibility to know when they are too tired to drive, regardless of the demands of their job. Drivers who neglect to rest can put others in danger by falling asleep at the wheel or missing hazards in the road.
- No Seatbelts: The C.D.C. reports of all truck drivers killed, over one-third were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. Seatbelt reduce your risk of injuries by up 50 percent and death by up to 45 percent.
- Speeding: More than 21 percent of large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had at least one previous speeding violation. Speeding is known for increasing traffic accidents, particularly in large trucks that take more time to react to road hazards.
- Indirect Risks – Driver Shortage: The trucking industry is experiencing a driver shortage that is putting more stress on drivers and trucking companies. Less drivers mean more work for employees and less rest.
- More Trucks: In the last few years, the number of registered long-haul trucks has immensely increased, even though the number of drivers has decreased. The more vehicles there are to share the road, the more chances there are for accidents to occur.
- Overnight Hours: Drivers who have strict deadlines often drive through the night to meet them. Driving at night increases their risks for accidents and encountering other fatigued, distracted, or intoxicated drivers on the roads.
- Longer Trips: Truck drivers in the industry are driving longer distances to meet the growing economic demands. Drivers may be on the road anywhere between 10 to 16 hours a day. A study published in U.S. Library of Medicine found drivers who average 13 hours of driving a day are only getting about 3.83 hours of sleep a night.
- Fatigued Driving: The indirect risk of fatigue affecting truck drivers is caused by all factors listed above. The overnight hours, long distance drives, and frequent work can all lead to dangerous levels sleep deprivation and fatigue.
Trucking Accidents in NYC Nearly 1,400 vehicles were involved in fatal trucking accidents in New York State in 2017, resulting in 121 fatalities. Of this amount, only 115 of the vehicles were large trucks, and 13 of the deaths were truckers.
These tragic statistics show the true devastation one large truck can cause in a single accident. Large truck drivers have a critical responsibility to operate their vehicles with care on New York roadways, regardless of the indirect consequences of the industry.
How To Prevent Trucking Accidents
When a truck loses control, it’s too late to prevent the disaster that will unfold. Truck drivers should always follow safe driving behaviors every minute they are behind the wheel. These behaviors include:
- Driving sober;
- Pulling over to rest if you experience symptoms of fatigue;
- Reducing distractions, such as cellphone use, to stay alert to the road;
- Scheduling your rest and stop times before your trip; and
- Keeping your speeds down to allow for quicker reaction time to road hazards.
- For drivers, there are several driving safety steps you can take on the road to avoid accidents involving large trucks.
- Brake slow and steady;
- Use your turn signals to give warning of your intentions;
- Signal early;
- Be aware of other drivers and their behaviors;
- Watch for signs of negligent driving (swerving, tailgating, speeding);
- Avoid participating in negligent driving behaviors;
- Don’t try to beat the trucks or swerve between them; and
- Stay clear or trucks showing any sign of distracted driving.
- It’s impossible to control the driving habits of large trucks on the road or even the negligent actions of other cars around these dangerous vehicles. But by using these safe driving tips whenever sharing the road with large trucks, you are doing everything in your power to reduce your risk of contributing to a trucking accident that could result in dozens of serious or fatal injuries.
New York City and Long Island Truck Accident Attorneys
There is no excuse for reckless driving. Truck drivers who fail to drive safely put others at unnecessary risk for devastating losses and injures.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident due to negligence, the attorneys at Siler & Ingber are here to help. With a 98% success rate, we have the experience and the know-how to help our clients achieve a favorable outcome. Contact us today at 1-877-529-4343, or schedule an appointment online anytime. We never charge a fee unless we recover money for you.