Understanding Why Ohio Truck Crashes Occur
Our economy runs on the trucking industry. Almost 12.5 million commercial large trucks and buses are registered in the U.S., according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Those trucks and buses drive a collective 300 billion miles across the U.S. every year. Commercial trucks boost the economy in massive ways, and truck drivers transport $791.7 billion in goods every year. But when things go wrong on the road, trucks often play a part. More than 13 percent of fatal crashes involved trucks in 2017, and the FMCSA reported 344,000 truck-involved injury collisions the same year. Getting in a car crash is a frightening experience no matter the size of the other vehicle, but truck crashes increase the risk of injury or death.
Semi-trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and are, on average, 72 feet long. In comparison, the average car is only 2,871 pounds and 15 feet long. It’s not hard to imagine why truck wrecks are significantly more dangerous. The sheer size of a heavy truck means it’s more likely to damage your vehicle and cause serious injuries. Your chances of being killed or maimed in a truck crash vary depending on where you live. Ohio leads the nation in deadly truck wrecks, with 140 fatal crashes involving trucks in 2017. According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Ohio is one of the top 10 states for truck and bus fatalities.
Types of Large Trucks
Regardless of the size of their vehicle, large truck drivers usually need a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Ohio divides CDLs into three classes — Class A, Class B, and Class C — that provide varying qualifications. Drivers must pass health tests along with a skills test and written exam. Ohio keeps a list of its CDL endorsements and restrictions for prospective drivers. Here are a few large truck types that might require commercial licensing.
Dump Trucks: Usually used to transport construction materials. Heavier dump trucks can carry up to 14 tons of dirt, sand, or asphalt.
Buses: Hundreds of thousands of Ohio children get back and forth from school safely thanks to school buses, and drivers are required to pass a CDL test to transport kids.
Tractor-Trailers: This is probably what comes to mind when you picture a large truck. Also called a semi-trailer, 18-wheeler, or big rig, these are some of the biggest vehicles you’ll see on the road.
Tanker trucks: Tanker drivers often make more money than others because the trucks are more dangerous than most tractor-trailers. They transport fuel, alcohol, and other flammable liquids, meaning a truck accident involving a tanker is more hazardous for other vehicles.
Refrigerator Trucks: Refrigerator trucks are temperature-controlled on the inside and used to transport perishable food. They can also haul medication, plants, and animals like penguins.
Garbage Trucks: The municipal vehicles that pick up your trash can carry several tons of garbage, and drivers must have CDLs because of the size of the trucks. Unlike other CDL drivers, garbage truck operators usually stay within a small local range.
Truck Wrecks vs. Car Crashes
Statistics consistently show that truck crashes are most dangerous for those not in the truck. Only 18% of truck crash deaths involve truck drivers; the rest consist of pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles. Commercial trucks transport hazardous materials from explosives and poisons to flammable liquids like gasoline and ethanol, which increases the risks. In some cases, Hazmat teams have to respond to make sure unsafe substances haven’t leaked or fallen out of a truck after a wreck.
Heavy trucks also have larger tires than most four-door vehicles, and when truck tires explode due to insufficient pressure, it can cause significant damage for other drivers. Tire blowouts also make trucks swerve and veer into traffic, which can be deadly. Even if truck drivers don’t lose control of their vehicles, tire scraps in the roadway create major hazards for others. If a large truck rolls over or jackknifes, it’ll likely block the entire road, and if cars aren’t able to stop in time, they’ll collide. Heavy trucks also have significant blind spots and may merge into traffic without realizing that cars are already in the lane.
Given the number of cars on the road, statistics show that passenger vehicle drivers are more likely to be tired or intoxicated behind the wheel, but truck drivers also sometimes engage in dangerous behavior.
If you don’t get enough sleep, your driving will suffer, and you’re just as much of a danger on the road as someone who’s driving drunk. Most people are guilty of hopping behind the wheel after a sleepless night, and fatigue doesn’t always mean you’re impaired significantly. It’s normal sometimes to feel tired when driving, but driving while exhausted is dangerous. The problem is magnified for truck drivers.
Truckers aren’t allowed to drive more than 11 hours a day under Department of Transportation regulations, but trucking companies have a financial incentive to stop their employees from taking frequent breaks. So it isn’t surprising that 13% of truck drivers are fatigued at the time of truck crashes. Nearly 4 in 5 truck crashes happen between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. A fatigued semi-truck driver hurtling down the road at 70 MPH on expansive highways that aren’t well-lit is a nightmare waiting to happen. Even if a driver doesn’t fall asleep, drowsiness can slow reaction times, shorten attention spans, and impair judgment.
Distracted driving threatens road safety and increases the risk of personal injury. It’s entirely preventable, and distracted drivers make a conscious decision to disregard safe protocols. Drivers have always found reasons to look away from the road, but smartphones have made the phenomenon even more widespread. One study found that people use their cell phones during 88% of trips. Driver inattention is a danger regardless of who’s responsible, but it’s especially concerning for a truck driver. Research has found that 71% of truck crashes are caused by drivers not looking at the road.
It’s common sense to wait until you get to your final destination before checking texts, eating a meal or making phone calls. However, many truck drivers are on the road for hours at a time and may find it harder not to give in to boredom to distract themselves, therefore increasing the chance of truck crashes. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a truck driver is 23 times more likely to cause a “safety-critical event” (truck crash, lane deviation, near-miss) than a car driver who’s doing the same thing. That’s why texting while driving is illegal for commercial vehicle drivers and punishable by a fine of up to $2,750. Truck drivers also run the risk of losing their commercial driver’s licenses.
Poor Vehicle Maintenance
A trucking company is responsible for vehicle maintenance, but not all fleet owners keep up with their trucks as much as they should. Even though trucking companies keep maintenance records that the federal government audits, a trucking company might care more about the bottom line than doing things by the book. Regular oil changes, tire pressure inspections, and braking checks can help reduce truck wrecks. FMCSA data shows that brake problems are the top reason that trucks crash. Safety experts say that brake issues are often a critical trucking crash factor. A poorly maintained vehicle is dangerous even when a truck driver is attentive and cautious, and vehicle problems cause 1 in 10 crashes involving trucks.
How Does Speeding Factor Into Trucking Crashes?
Speeding plays into 1 in 5 fatal wrecks involving large semis. Much like distracted driving, speeding is a more considerable hazard when a truck driver does it. A passenger car traveling 65 miles per hour needs 316 feet to brake fully, which is nearly the size of a football field. For truck drivers, it will take almost two football fields. When a truck driver decides to speed, all of the other cars on the road are at significant risk of a truck wreck. Along with braking speed, heavy truck tires are only built to sustain 75 MPH speeds. When you consider that many highways in the U.S. have a posted speed limit of 70 MPH, truck drivers have to make a conscious decision to go slower than other vehicles to lessen the chances of trucking crashes.
Rollover crashes often lead to drivers and passengers being thrown from the vehicles, making them more fatal than other accident types. Semi-trucks are at a higher risk of rolling over due to their size, and speeding worsens the odds. Inclement weather is also a component, which is why the FMCSA recommends that truckers reduce their speed by ⅓ on wet roads and ½ on snow-filled roads. However, the danger doesn’t stop truckers from speeding. In 2018, truck drivers received 146,945 speeding violations, and the number rises every year. Speeding is one of the top reasons trucks crash – 23% of heavy truck crashes involve a driver going too fast.
One other leading contributor is unexpected changes in traffic. When a truck driver has to brake suddenly because of a crosswalk or traffic light, the semi may not stop safely. Traffic congestion is also a problem. If drivers brake because of obstacles in the roadway or a car crash, a truck driver might cause a multi-vehicle wreck because of how long it takes for a semi-truck to slow down. Debris and unexpected roadway issues like an animal running into the road can also make driving unsafe for truck drivers.
What To Do If You Are In A Truck Wreck
Not all collisions are created equal. You need to be diligent after a collision, no matter who’s involved, but there are crucial things to know after a truck crash. Suppose a passenger car rear-ends you, and you don’t see any vehicle damage. In that case, you might decide to trade contact information and insurance details without involving the police, especially if you don’t think you’re hurt. You should handle trucking crashes differently, given the severity and regulations truckers are required to follow.
What should you do if you’re in a crash? Your first step is to get as far away from traffic as you can. Ideally, you’ll move your vehicle out of the roadway, but this might be difficult if it’s no longer drivable. If you have to leave your car where it landed after the crash, don’t stay with it and get out of the road. Next, it’s essential to call the police. Even if you don’t think you’re hurt and your car doesn’t look too damaged, you’ll want a police report for insurance purposes. If the truck driver is negligent, a traffic citation will help your case if you later decide to pursue a lawsuit. If someone who witnessed the events stays to help, you’ll need to personally obtain their contact information to pass along to your insurance company. You should also take pictures from all angles. Take photos of all of the vehicles involved and any damage, road damage like debris and skid marks, and road conditions.
Then get checked out by a medical professional. If you already know you’re injured, emergency dispatchers will send an ambulance along with law enforcement officers. If you don’t think you’re hurt or the injury isn’t urgent, it may seem like overkill to visit a doctor’s office or hospital. However, crashes involving large trucks are rarely minor, and injuries may appear days or even weeks after the collision. Large trucks can cause injuries like concussions, brain bruising, skull fractures, whiplash, and slipped discs. The most severe cases may leave people with severe traumatic brain injuries that make it difficult to function normally.
Trucking Accident Lawsuits
One of the most frequent causes of large truck-passenger collisions is a truck following a car too closely and not braking in time. Another common factor, according to FMCSA data, is truck drivers being distracted by things happening outside and inside of their vehicle. Trucking companies carry a higher amount of insurance than passenger vehicles. In Ohio, intrastate truck drivers must have at least $750,000 bodily injury and property damage liability insurance. These insurance companies are aggressive and will try to get you to settle for very little.
Should you file a lawsuit after a truck crash? Semi-trucks often wreck your car worse than a passenger vehicle would. In addition, the wreck might leave you or your loved ones with mental and emotional problems like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, some of these symptoms don’t develop immediately after a crash, and settling too fast may leave you without the compensation you deserve for your trauma.
An expert lawyer will work with a truck company’s insurance company to make sure you get an appropriate settlement. Additionally, a truck company has a big budget for a legal fight and will do whatever it takes to protect itself. If you settle without consulting with a lawyer, you may miss out on critical factors that caused the crash. Truck companies must do things like randomly drug test their drivers and maintain their fleet vehicles. If they haven’t met those standards, they’ll be liable for negligence. The long-term effects of a truck crash can be devastating, but a trucking crash lawyer will help you navigate the aftermath of a crash.