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Texas Personal Injury News

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Crash Facts Involving Large Trucks — A Texas Truck Accident Lawyer is Your Ally

Statistics show that the majority of fatalities in 18-wheeler collisions occur to those driving or riding in passenger cars. The size and weight disparity between the two is simply too great for the outcome to be favorable for the smaller vehicle. A fully loaded semi-truck can weigh up to 30 times as much as a 4-door sedan.

The trucking industry addresses this imbalance with design features like rear underride guards intended to prevent cars from sliding underneath large trucks in rear-end collisions. However, research done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing highway deaths through scientific research and education, indicates that even though these guards adhere to safety standards set by the federal government, they can be ineffective even in low-speed collisions. To combat this design failure, the IHHS lobbied federal regulators to demand stronger guards that will withstand the impact of a wreck.

Putting the brakes on safety

It is vital that the brakes on all trucks in a company's fleet get regular inspections and routine maintenance. Companies that cut safety corners to save money put everyone on the road at risk of being maimed or killed due to a maintenance lapse. 

Another highway safety hazard is the time and distance required for 18-wheelers to come to a complete stop after braking. Most commercial truck drivers do everything they can to avoid colliding with passenger vehicles, but it's a deadly fact that on too many occasions, trucks are unable to stop fast enough to avoid a calamity. Even an empty commercial truck is unable to stop as quickly as smaller autos; a fully-loaded semi on a rain-slick highway is at a real disadvantage. Moreover, the height of large trucks makes rollover accidents much more likely when truckers attempt to brake suddenly to avoid an accident. For drivers and passengers in vehicles in the lane beside the toppling truck, this can be a disastrous event.

Reducing the risk of rollover wrecks

Improving the design of large trucks to include an electronic stability control component could potentially reduce the frequency of rollover wrecks. The auto industry acknowledges that these safety features reduce the occurrence of skidding and help drivers maintain control of their vehicles. For passenger cars and light trucks, the presence of electronic stability controls slashes the risk of fatal rollover events by over 70 percent. Beginning in 2012, the technology was incorporated into all passenger cars and trucks. The next logical step is to include same in large truck designs. 

Truck drivers often lose control when they jerk the wheel to avoid another vehicle. Two steering problems can result.

  • Oversteering - Turning the steering wheel sharply in one direction can cause the rear tires to spin and the truck to slide.
  • Understeering - Commercial trucks may be understeered on slippery surfaces where the front set of wheels can't gain traction. This causes unintended continued forward motion.

Electronic stability controls on trucks could reduce the prevalence of the above steering hazards by correcting the big rig's direction with selective wheel braking that counters the force.

One of the reasons rollover accidents are so deadly is that they frequently result in total or partial ejections of the driver and passengers. Being ejected from a vehicle often results in horrific injuries or death. Large trucks have a very high center of gravity by design, and the weight of cargo can increase it even more. Thus, simply taking evasive action by braking to avoid a collision can result in another type of deadly accident scenario.

Trucker fatigue can be fatal

A major cause of many highway accidents is truck driver fatigue. Studies have shown that a significant number of truckers routinely violate the hours-of-service rules put in place by the government. Under current federal laws, truck drivers are permitted to drive up to 11 hours before they are required to pull their rig over and take a rest break. They also are allowed 60(70) hours of driving over 7(8) consecutive days. When the limit is reached, a trucker has to go off duty for at least 34 back-to-back hours. 

Findings from the National Institutes of Health compare a driver being awake for 24 hours to the impairment experienced by drivers with blood alcohol levels of .10 percent. For commercial truckers, that is nearly more than two times the legal limit. It is common for truckers to average only five hours sleep time between shifts behind the wheel. Experts recommend 2-4 additional sleeping hours in order to get adequate rest. Sleeping poorly between driving routes is another cause of significant impairment in truck drivers.

The logbooks truckers use to tally up their driving hours are notoriously easy to falsify, especially when freight companies push their drivers to complete their deliveries in record time to save money. The trucking industry could reduce the risk of fatigue-related large truck crashes by mandating that all commercial trucks use electronic onboard recorders to log the trucker's hours behind the wheel. Such automated recorders would increase drivers' compliance rates with federal hours-of-service laws, as the devices record data whenever a truck is in motion.

A preventable tragedy

Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board released its findings of the primary cause of last year's collision on the New Jersey turnpike between a Walmart truck and a limousine carrying comic Tracy Morgan and others. Morgan suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash, and four other passengers were seriously injured. Most tragically, a longtime friend of Morgan's died in the carnage. The NTSB cited truck driver fatigue as the main factor behind the accident.

The NTSB report stated that the trucker had been awake for over a day at the time of the collision, having driven more than 800 miles on a route from Georgia to Delaware before embarking on the fatal ride. He had previously lost a safety bonus after racking up nine separate critical event reports for unsafe driving behaviors like braking too hard.

Coping with the aftermath

Most people injured in large truck crashes do not have the financial cushion of someone like Tracy Morgan to sustain them and their families in the recuperative months to come. Depending upon the severity of the injuries you suffer, you could find yourself unable to work, with no means of support and a mountain of hospital and rehabilitation bills. A serious accident can have negative repercussions on every aspect of your life. Worse still, the accident may cause permanent disabling injuries that preclude your ever working again in your field at the position you held at the time of the accident.

Although you may be overwhelmed, you can turn to the legal professionals at Chandler, Mathis & Zivley, Attorneys at Law. Their truck accident lawyers can help you pursue justice by filing a civil claim against the truck driver and trucking company responsible for your injuries and decreased quality of life.


Google+: There are many different factors that can cause a collision between your car and a large commercial truck. A truck accident lawyer can vigorously pursue compensation on your behalf.

Sources:

http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/large-trucks/fatalityfacts/large-trucks

www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-of-service

http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Pages/HWY14MH012_preliminary.aspx



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