Truck Accidents and Negligence
You probably do not need to be told that truck accidents are some of the deadliest and most terrifying accidents on our roads. The trucking industry is fueled by our consumer-driven economy, and both are bustling. While trucking is a big business, far too many trucking companies and truck drivers are not above cutting safety corners in the name of huge profits, and this approach makes truck accidents that much more likely.
The Trucking Company
The trucking company itself stands to make huge profits by putting an ever-larger number of rigs on the road, and some do so without ensuring that all of the necessary precautions are implemented. Trucking companies often bear considerable responsibility when it comes to dangerous truck accidents.
Hiring Safe Drivers
The first order of business when it comes to limiting the number of truck accidents out there is ensuring that the trucking companies employ truck drivers who have the appropriate commercial driver’s license, have the experience necessary to safely maneuver a big rig over the road and through traffic, have a solid driving record, and are reliable. It is a tall order, but it is the only way to curtail truck accidents to the extent possible. Truck accidents are often the result of truck driver negligence, which makes hiring safe truckers paramount.
Maintaining Safe Rigs
The massive semis that we encounter on our roadways are workhorses that put in a nearly unimaginable number of miles each year. As such, they require exacting maintenance that is performed on a regular schedule. When trucking companies scrimp on maintenance, it can lead to life-threatening accidents. An important element of maintaining safe trucks is hiring experienced mechanics who have the requisite skill and licensure to help ensure that the company’s fleet of rigs (that is in regular rotation) is in safe working order – at all times.
Implementing Safe Driving Schedules
There are exacting hours-of-service restrictions in place for truck drivers for one very good reason, and that is safety. Restrictions include:
Truck drivers can spend only a specific number of hours behind the wheel on any given day.
Truck drivers must take driving breaks for a specified amount of time throughout any given day of travel.
Truck drivers must take a specific number of days off after pulling long hauls.
Truck drivers can only work a specific number of days within a specific timeframe.
Truck drivers earn their living behind the wheel, and their work is provided by the trucking companies for whom they work. When a trucking company chooses to put profits before safety and pushes its truckers to drive outside the legal limitations, the truck drivers can feel pressured to do so. Trucking companies are responsible for providing their truck drivers with driving schedules that do not exceed the limitations established by law and that do not compromise safety.
Truck drivers are naturally responsible for driving safely, and many truck accidents come down to truck driver negligence. Spending long hours behind the wheel of a massive truck is a grueling business, and some truckers are more committed to safety than others. In the end, truck drivers earn their wages in accordance with the number of miles they log, which can push some to put in more miles than it is safe to do. Truck driver negligence can come in a wide range of forms.
Ignoring the Rules of the Road
The first line of defense when it comes to safe trucking is obeying the rules of the road, which can mean all of the following:
Obeying all traffic signals, lights, and signs
Adhering to the speed limit and decreasing speed in relation to the condition of the road
Employing the level of caution necessary to react safely to whatever the road has to offer
Actively allowing the safe passage of others
The rules of the road are in place to help keep everyone who travels on them safer, and truck drivers are responsible for carefully adhering to them.
Driving a truck safely is a complicated endeavor, and there is absolutely no room for dangerous distractions. A trucker who is not focusing his or her attention on driving safely is a dangerous trucker who makes our roadways that much more deadly. Driving distractions come in three basic categories that include:
Distractions that engage our hands
Distractions that engage our thoughts
Distractions that engage our sight
Because texting manages to meld all three categories of distraction into one blowout of a distraction, it has the distinction of being the most dangerous distraction of all. The average text takes about five seconds to create or process, and if the trucker is traveling at highway speeds at the time, it translates to traveling about the length of a football field with his or her nose in a phone, which is dangerous by design. In order to drive safely, truck drivers have plenty to pay attention to, and any additional distractions can prove exceptionally dangerous.
Speeding is a double-edged sword. Not only does excess speed make accidents more likely, but it also increases the risk that the ensuing accidents will be deadly. Truck drivers are responsible for not exceeding the speed limit, but there is more to safe driving than this. There are a variety of factors that require drivers to slow down in order to drive at a safe speed, and truckers must take these factors into careful consideration, including:
The dangerous effects of bad weather
Poorly maintained roads
Dangerous drivers on the road
Extenuating circumstances, such as low visibility
Because trucks are so immense and carry such heavy loads, they are more susceptible to the dangerous effects of factors such as high winds and sharp turns, which can lead to rollovers.
Driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is exceptionally dangerous no matter who does it, but when the motorist in question is a truck driver, the danger grows exponentially. This is why the law has zero-tolerance for impaired truckers, and a conviction for impairment can lead to the loss of one’s trucking career. Alcohol can lead to physical, sensory, and cognitive impairments that make maneuvering a big rig safely next to impossible. The reality is that impairment behind the wheel of a big rig is as terrifying as it sounds.
Exhaustion elicits many of the same forms of impairment that alcohol and drugs can, which makes drowsy driving a serious problem. The fact that truckers face long hours behind the wheel – over extended periods of time – creates a situation in which the potential for exhaustion behind the wheel is very real. Truck drivers are responsible for carefully following the applicable hours-of-service restrictions that guide their industry to help ensure the safety of everyone on the road, and when they attempt to cheat the system, the danger increases significantly.
Aggressive driving takes dangerous driving to entirely new levels, and when the aggressive driver in question is a truck driver, the degree of danger involved is difficult to quantify. Semis weigh many, many times more than the vehicles we drive, and this means that the occupants of the other vehicles involved in truck accidents are far more likely to be seriously injured (or worse). Aggressive truck drivers have less to fear from their own recklessness than everyone else on the road does. Tailgating is a common form of aggressive driving, and it does not take an exceptionally active imagination to get an idea of exactly how terrifying it is to have a semi-truck barreling down on you. Aggressive driving often involves a combination of negligent driving practices that are dangerous by design. Consider the following:
Attempting to engage other drivers in dangerous driving skirmishes
Zipping in and out of traffic
Ignoring the rules of the road, including traffic lights, signals, and signs
Refusing to yield the right-of-way
When you spot an aggressive trucker on the road – and they are not difficult to identify – allow them as much space as you can and alert the authorities as soon as it is safe to do so. Aggressive truck drivers are simply too dangerous to ignore.
The Trucker’s Load
When it comes to negligence and truck accidents, it is important to consider the incredibly heavy load the trucker is hauling. The essence of the trucking industry is carrying massive loads of consumer goods from Point A to Point B, and how these loads are distributed and secured in their trailers can play a significant role in dangerous truck accidents. Careful weight distribution practices and careful attention to potential shifting in the truck’s load matter, and the trucking company is responsible for ensuring that it hires safe, experienced, and reliable loading crews that understand the principles of safe loading and apply them to every load.
It is all well and good for the trucking company to carefully maintain a safe fleet of rigs, but the matter does not stop here. Driving an immense semi over a stretch of road takes a toll on the vehicle itself, and regular safety checks are imperative. Truck companies are responsible for implementing regular maintenance checks that take all relevant factors into consideration, and the truck drivers they hire are responsible for following these maintenance schedules. Failure to do so makes dangerous tire blowouts and other serious incidents more likely.
Inherently Dangerous Factors
There are certain factors that make semis inherently more dangerous and that make truck driver negligence that much more threatening.
Expansive Blind Spots
Truck drivers experience serious blind spots along every side of their rigs. When you pull in too close to a trucker, he or she cannot see you and may not know that you are there. Further, when you tailgate an 18-wheeler, the driver is unlikely to be aware of your presence. These are situations that are not difficult to avoid (as long as you employ safe driving practices behind the wheel), but it is also important to be aware of the long stretches of blind spots that truckers experience along both sides of their rigs, which make passing on the right exceptionally dangerous. When you pass on the left, it is important to keep in mind that if you cannot see the trucker's face in his or her side mirror, he or she cannot see you. Always pass trucks with intention and without lingering beside them for more time than is absolutely necessary.
Increased Stopping Distances
You recognize that semis are immensely heavy, but you may not give much thought to how this affects the stopping distances they require. Tractor-trailers require far greater stopping distances than the cars we drive, which makes allowing plenty of distance between your vehicle and the semi that shares your lane extremely important.
It is more difficult for truck drivers to maneuver their vehicles safely when difficult driving situations arise. Examples include:
Poorly maintained roads
When factors like these are present, it is important to recognize that they can affect a truck’s maneuverability more significantly and to steer clear to the degree possible.
It Is Time to Consult with an Experienced Killeen Personal Injury Attorney
If the negligence of a trucking company and/or a truck driver leaves you injured, the damages you suffer are likely to be considerable, and having professional legal counsel in your corner is the best way to help ensure that you obtain the compensation you need to regain your health and well-being. Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a distinguished personal injury lawyer who takes his clients’ difficult situations extremely seriously. Mr. Pritchard is committed to skillfully advocating for your rights – in dedicated pursuit of your just compensation. For more information about how we can help you, please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.