The recent news regarding the truck accident that critically injured comedian Tracy Morgan has brought the issue of trucking safety to the forefront. Though the exact cause of the crash is still under investigation, reports that the truck driver was fatigued have created a lot of conversation around the topic of large trucks on the
How many trucks are on the road?
There are more than 15 million commercial vehicles on the nation's highways, and an estimated two million of these vehicles classified as tractor-trailers. Over 226 million miles are covered each year by these commercial vehicles, transporting all manner of goods all over the country.
Causes of trucking accidents
In a massive study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) from 2001 through 2003, several factors emerged as common causes for truck accidents. Surprisingly, the leading cause of accidents involving large trucks is not driver fatigue. While fatigue is a factor in some accidents, a far more common cause is driving decisions made by the driver of the truck (42%), such as excessive speed, aggressive driving, or illegal maneuvers. Driver inattention (35%) is also a major cause, particularly with regard to focus on traffic conditions and awareness of other vehicles on the roadway. Other factors include vehicle issues such as brakes, tires, and lights (8%), overcompensation/over-correcting (7%), environmental factors such as road conditions or weather (4%). Non-performance by a driver - sleepiness or illness - accounted for only 3% of the accidents included in the study.
Why large trucks are dangerous
Large commercial trucks transport goods and materials all over the country, and are important for commerce and the economy. But these trucks share the road with passenger vehicles of all sizes, and their size and weight can make them a dangerous roadway companion. A large truck can weigh up to thirty times as much as a passenger vehicle, and their size and weight impacts how quickly a truck can accelerate, brake, and maneuver. A tractor-trailer traveling at 60MPH is required to stop in 310 feet - the length of a football field - once the brakes are applied. In swiftly-moving heavy traffic, such as that on an interstate, the potential for an accident is greater. Regardless of how safely the driver of a large truck operates, the sheer physics of such a vehicle makes it more dangerous to those around it.
Rules in place to regulate the industry
Federal laws and regulations establish the standards that trucking companies and drivers must meet. These laws and regulations have a bearing on determining the responsibility of parties involved in a trucking accident. Drivers of large trucks are required to earn a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) due to the greater level of knowledge, skills, experience, and physical ability required to operate such a large vehicle. Trucking companies have standards to meet in terms of vehicle size, weight, and mechanical maintenance. These regulations are designed to make our roads and highways safer for travel. However, drivers and trucking companies sometimes skirt these regulations, putting the general public at risk.
If you're involved in an accident with a truck
Each truck accident case is different, and claims and settlements for each case will depend on many factors. Federal laws and regulations provide a framework for the legal process, and your attorney can help you to navigate the various issues that may arise. Some of the factors that the legal system will take into consideration are the extent of your injuries, the anticipated healing time of those injuries, loss of work time, and the amount of insurance held by the negligent party. You may receive economic damages based upon your age, income, and recovery time, as well as non-economic damages for pain and suffering. The cause and severity of the accident will help to determine compensation, and your attorney can help to build your case based on this information. Passenger vehicles sharing the road with large commercial trucks must be cautious, whether in a metro area or on the interstate. Accidents such as the one that injured Tracy Morgan are common on the nation's roadways, and while the legal outcome of that accident won't be known for a while, the comedian has a long road of physical and emotional recovery ahead of him. For anyone facing a similar situation, an attorney experienced in handling truck accidents can help to make the recovery process more bearable.