Truck wrecks are almost always traumatic. But they can be even more heartbreaking when they are caused by truck driver errors—especially if the victims suffered devastating injuries or were killed. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were 3,744 fatalities and 88,000 injuries in truck accidents in 2014. Sadly, many of these were caused by truck driver mistakes.
Common Truck Driver Errors That Could Have Caused Your Collision
Wrecks caused by truck driver error can be even more horrific for the victims because their injuries can be more severe, causing lifelong limitations in their lives, and because these accidents are so preventable. Common trucker mistakes that can cause these crashes include:
- Driver fatigue. When a trucker is drowsy, his reaction times are slowed and his decision making abilities are diminished. Even more frightening, he could fall asleep at the wheel. FMCSA hours-of-service rules limit the number of hours a trucker can drive to prevent this dangerous practice. During any day, a trucker can work a maximum of 14 hours and drive 11 hours. He must be off work 10 consecutive hours before he starts his work shift. In addition, a driver cannot drive after working 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days. Unfortunately, truck drivers and their employers violate these rules routinely, with the result being accidents that could have been avoided.
- Drug and alcohol use. While truckers should know better, some continue to drive after consuming drugs or alcohol when their reaction times and general driving skills are reduced. To combat this problem, federal regulations require trucking companies to test drivers for drug and alcohol use before hiring them and conduct random drug tests while they are on duty or if they were involved in a fatal crash.
- Blind spots. Huge blind spots—also known as “no-zones”—where other drivers and their vehicles disappear from view surround trucks. When a truck driver is not extra vigilant, he can fail to realize a vehicle is in his blind spot or is entering one and can cause a tragic crash.
- Truck rollovers. Truck rollovers often occur when truckers make driving errors. Common causes of these crashes include taking a curve too quickly, speeding, fatigue, inexperience, or an improperly distributed load.
- Brake malfunctions. To save money, some truckers and trucking companies depower the front brakes or adjust the brakes to reduce their wear and tear. In addition, they may allow a truck on the road that needs a brake repair or replacement. These are very dangerous practices that can leave truckers unable to slow down or stop their trucks in the critical moments before a crash.
- Distracted driving. A trucker’s mind and eyes will not be on the road if he is talking on his cell phone, texting, eating or drinking, or fiddling with the GPS or an instrument control. Even a few seconds of lack of concentration can cause a trucker to make a mistake, such as failing to stop at a red light or improperly attempting to pass a slower vehicle.
- Speeding. Accidents involving speeding and just passenger vehicles result in serious injuries. The risk of catastrophic injuries increases greatly if a trucker is speeding, due the far greater force of the impact when an 80,000-pound vehicle is involved.
- Following too closely. All vehicles are required to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them. This is even more critical for a trucker who can cause a deadly rear-end collision also resulting in an override accident where the truck drives over and crushes the smaller passenger vehicle.
- Not driving for weather conditions. Truckers need to reduce their speed and leave more time to slow down or stop when roads are slippery due to rain, snow, or ice. When they don’t, they could lose traction with the road, with a jackknife or other crash the likely result.
Proving a truck driver’s and trucking company’s negligence in driver error accidents can be complicated given the added responsibilities and the federal regulations they must follow. Hiring an experienced truck accident attorney is an important first step you need to make before important evidence is destroyed. If you or a loved one was injured in one of these tragic crashes, start an online chat to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with David Brauns to learn about your legal options.
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