Posted by Haslam & Gallagher, LLP on 02/25/2016

7 Harmful Myths about Truck Accidents Debunked

7 Harmful Myths about Truck Accidents Debunked

More than 330,000 commercial truck accidents occur each year, contributing to about 10 percent of all traffic-related fatalities in the U.S.1 For the victims of these collisions, understanding the facts about truck accidents can be pivotal to knowing what their options for financial recovery are after these wrecks occur.

To that end, below are the facts behind some of the most prevalent and potentially harmful myths associated with truck accidents in the U.S.

The Facts behind  the Myths: Top Truck Accident Myths to Ignore 

Myth 1 – Truck  drivers are far less likely than non-commercial motorists to make errors behind  the wheel. 

Fact – Not necessarily! In many cases, the negligence of truck drivers contributes to truck accidents, often making these motorists responsible for compensating victims for their injuries and losses. In fact, federal data indicates that truckers’ negligence or errors are a primary contributing factor in well over half of all truck crashes that occur in the U.S. each year.

Some examples of truck driver mistakes, errors and negligence that commonly play a role in causing truck accidents include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Driving  while impaired – Impaired driving among truckers can result in perception, coordination and judgment problems, as well as delayed reaction times. In fact, federal data2 has revealed that, drunk and/or drugged drivers are at least four times more likely to be in a crash (when compared to the crash risks associated with sober drivers).

  • Distracted  driving – When truckers are not paying attention to the road, the task of driving and the changing driving environment around them, it is far more likely that they won’t see important driving cues (like, for instance, other vehicles’ brake lights, stops signs, etc.).

  • Failing  to comply with traffic laws – Running red lights, speeding and otherwise disobeying traffic laws significantly increases the risk of truck accidents, especially on busier roadways and/or during rush hour traffic (when far more vehicles tend to be on the roads).

  • Improperly  securing loads or trailers – This refers to cargo that is not properly tied down and/or properly balanced, as well as trailers that may be improperly secured via hitches. When trucks’ loads or trailers are not properly secured, the cargo can shift, altering the trucks’ centers of gravity – and increasing the risk of rollovers, runaway trailers and other types of truck accidents.

  • Violating  any trucking regulations – These include any state or federal trucking regulation.

Myth 2 – Trucker  fatigue is not a leading cause of truck accidents in the U.S.

Fact – This is absolutely wrong! In fact, trucker fatigue is the 7th leading cause of truck accidents in the U.S., and it contributes to about 13 percent of all truck accidents that occur each year. This makes trucker fatigue a prominent threat to public safety on the roads.3

 The primary reason that trucker fatigue is so dangerous is that it can result in the same impairments and risks that arise from impaired and distracted driving.

In fact, research has revealed that, when truck drivers drive after 24 hours without sleep, they tend to exhibit the same impairments as drivers who have blood alcohol contents of 0.10. And that is 2.5 times the legal limit for commercial motorists throughout the U.S.

Myth 3 – Trucking  companies are rarely liable for truck accidents. 

Fact – Not true! Trucking companies are commonly liable for truck accidents, depending (of course) on the circumstances involved in the crash.

In particular, some of the more common ways in which trucking companies’ negligence can lead to truck accidents and, in turn, make these companies responsible for compensating victims include by (but are not exclusive to):

  • Failing  to conduct background checks on new drivers before putting them on the roads – Background checks can verify whether truckers do, in fact, have valid commercial driver’s licenses. They can also indicate whether truckers may have a history of failing drug tests, getting into traffic crashes, or otherwise driving recklessly.  
  • Failing  to drug test drivers – Federal regulations4 require that trucking companies conduct drug and alcohol testing on truckers during the hiring process, after a crash, randomly and/or whenever there is cause to suspect trucker impairment.
  • Failing  to train truck drivers – When trucking companies allow inexperienced CDL holders to get behind the wheel, they can be liable for any accidents those inexperienced truckers cause.
  • Failing  to maintaining trucks – This includes failing to inspect trucks and/or failing to properly repair any safety issues they may have.
  • Failing  to abide by trucking regulations – And this includes failing to make sure their truck drivers are also in compliance with state and federal trucking regulations. It can also involve incentivizing truck drivers to violate trucking regulations (like hours-of-service rules) and/or setting unrealistic delivery deadlines (forcing drivers to violate trucking regulations in order to meet these impossible schedules).

Myth 4 – Truck  accidents are as dangerous and deadly for truck drivers as they are for those  in passenger vehicles. 

Fact – Wrong again! When truck accidents involve passenger vehicles, the occupants of the smaller vehicles are far more likely to suffer serious (if not life-threatening) injuries. In fact:

  • Nearly 3 in every 4 truck accident injuries and deaths affect the occupants of passenger vehicles (rather than truckers).
  • Truck accidents are about 10 times more likely to result in death for the occupants of passenger vehicles (than any other type of motor vehicle collision).

The primary reason for this lies in the dramatic weight discrepancy between trucks and passenger vehicles. Specifically, while trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds when fully loaded, passenger vehicles tend to weigh between 4,000 and 5,000 pounds at most.

In other words, trucks can be as much as 16 times heavier than passenger vehicles, meaning that, even at slow speeds, the force upon impact with smaller, lighter-weight vehicles can be (and often is) deadly.

Myth 5 – The  deadliest types of truck crashes are jackknife truck accidents.

Fact – Although jackknife truck accidents can be deadly when passenger vehicles are involved, by far, the top two deadliest types of truck accidents that can occur are:

  • Underride  truck accidents, which occur when passenger vehicles collide with larger trucks and become lodged beneath them – More than 1,100 underride truck accidents take place on U.S. roadways each year. And about 50 percent of all fatal car-versus-truck accidents are underride truck accidents.

  • Rollover  truck accidents – Causing more than 1 in 3 traffic-related fatalities that occur in the U.S. each year, rollover truck accidents are far more likely to have deadly outcomes when large, heavy trucks are involved.

Myth 6 – Over  recent years, fatal truck accidents in the U.S. have been increasing.

Fact – Untrue, and the fact behind this myth may be one of the more hopeful facts presented herein.

As the latest data indicates, deadly truck crashes in the U.S have been steadily declining over the last 10 years or so. In fact, recent findings5 indicate that:

  • Since 2014, deadly truck accidents in the U.S. have declined by nearly 3 percent.
  • Since 2013, the incidence of fatal truck accidents in the U.S. has dropped by nearly 5 percent.
  • Over the last 10 years, there has been a more than 40-percent decline in deadly truck accidents in the U.S.

Some of the reasons that have been cited for this encouraging trend include enhanced technology and safety features on trucks, coupled with stronger trucking regulations and better enforcement of those regulations. It remains to be seen, however, whether this trend will continue in 2016 and beyond.

Myth 7 – Victims  can rely on insurance companies to protect them and fairly compensate them  after truck accidents occur.

Fact – This is also generally untrue, and it can be one of the most dangerous truck accident myths for victims to buy into. That’s because, when truck accident victims believe this myth, it’s far more likely that:

  • They will misplace their trust in the hands of insurers.
  • They will inadvertently compromise their claims for financial recovery.
  • They may fail to take action when their legitimate accidents claims are wrongly denied by insurance companies.

The truth is that, after truck accidents, insurance companies – even those who may have issued policies to the victims – are NOT usually on victims’ sides. Instead, these companies are typically looking out for their own profits. And that often means that insurers are focused on trying to reduce (or even deny) payouts to the victims who deserve them.

As a result, it is critical for victims to have an experienced truck accident lawyer on their side, helping them protect and advance their claims for compensation so they are able to secure the full amount of damages they deserve. This can be integral to their overall recovery – and their future.

Full Disclosure 

The information in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.

If you happen to be injured in a truck accident or any type of traffic collision in Texas, you are encouraged to contact Haslam & Gallagher for more information about your rights and options for recovery. Established in 1986, Haslam & Gallagher is a personal injury and civil litigation law firm based in Fort Worth, Texas.


Sources:

1: According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) - https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/Commercial_Motor_Vechicle_Facts_March_2013.pdf

2: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  -  http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/2015/nhtsa-releases-2-impaired-driving-studies-02-2015

3: According to the U.S. DOT - https://www.transportation.gov/fastlane/why-we-care-about-truck-driver-fatigue

4: FMCSA Drug Testing Program Requirements - https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/drug-alcohol-testing-program

5: According to the American Trucking Associations - http://www.trucking.org/article.aspx?uid=6f693bd8-cb66-40f7-b966-25941cccab76






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