Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents
Every year, there are more than a half-million commercial vehicle truck accidents. One might think that every crash is different and happens for different reasons. However, over the years we have discovered that most truck accident cases are ultimately caused by only a handful of reasons. These include the following:
- Truck Driver Fatigue
- Cell Phone Texting
- Unhealthy Drivers
- Inadequate Brakes
- Improper Training
- Negligent Hiring/Retention
Driver Fatigue is one of the most dangerous causes of Truck Accidents simply because the driver often does not see the crash coming and takes absolutely no evasive action to avoid or lessen the impact. It is also a highly prevalent cause of 18-wheeler truck wrecks. Many people think that “Driver Fatigue” simply means that the truck driver falls asleep at the wheel. While it certainly happens, the more likely affect is that a driver begins to experience “highway hypnosis”. “Highway Hypnosis” is a term that refers to the driver remaining awake but losing his sense of concentration and consciousness. It is especially dangerous because truck drivers do not realize that they are “zoning out” since they never fall asleep.
We have yet to see a case where the driver admits that he was fatigued. Instead, we prove it through the circumstances. We often prove this by showing that the driver was improperly driving more hours than permitted, not sleeping as much as he said he did (our common tactic is to compare their logbook which requires them to list when they slept to their cell phone records); or driving “split-shifts”.
Cell Phone Texting
Cell phone texting is no longer just for teenagers. We are finding that it is becoming increasingly common amongst professional truck drivers. Unfortunately it is also becoming a leading cause of semi truck accidents. In fact, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute published a 2009 study concluding that texting raised the risk of a truck crash 2300%. The study further found that it caused the drivers to take their eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. That may not sound like a lot, but consider that a truck driver will cover the length of a football field at highway speeds during that time.
Fully loaded tractor-trailers can weigh in excess of 10,000 pounds. Given all this extra mass, semi-trucks need an extra 40% more space than standard cars to stop. Of course, this gap is even wider when the tractor-trailer trucks have worn down brake pads and rotors. Accordingly, in the interest of safety, truck companies must make sure that the brakes are regularly maintained and replaced. Unfortunately, this is not often the case. If retained immediately after the crash, we will have an expert inspect the truck’s brakes to determine the level of wear. When we find that the brakes are completely worn and have not been changed in a very long time, it can amount to more than just mere negligence, but rather a conscious disregard for the public which can justify the imposition of punitive damages.