According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), more than 2.7 million tractor-trailer trucks are registered in the United States. Large truck traffic accounts for roughly 9 percent of all traffic on U.S. roads and highways. At any given time, cars and trucks must share the road safely and responsibly. Unfortunately, when cars and trucks collide, cars lose the battle. So do their drivers and passengers. Accidents involving trucks and passenger vehicles often result in fatalities and catastrophic injuries to the car’s occupants. In this blog post, we discuss the causes and consequences of truck-on-car accidents.
Frequent Causes of Truck AccidentsTruck drivers put in long hours on U.S. roads every day. As professional drivers, truckers may have more confidence behind the wheel than the average driver. They may have earned some of that confidence, but occasionally truck drivers also tend to become more complacent about following the rules of the road and engaging in driving conduct other drivers might avoid. This can lead to behaviors that contribute to accidents, including:
- Distracted driving. Like the rest of us, truck drivers have become reliant on cell phones and GPS devices. These devices impair truckers’ abilities to drive safely in the same way they impair everyone else’s, but because truck drivers operate massive vehicles, a momentary lapse of attention and slowed reaction time can cause outsized destruction.
- Driving while impaired. Truck drivers need all of their wits about them to keep themselves and others safe on the road. The FMCSA reports that about 3 percent of fatal large truck accidents in 2016 involved drivers who had alcohol in their systems, and nearly 5 percent of drivers who were tested had illegal drugs in their systems. Many more drivers likely drive under the influence of prescription or over-the-counter medications they use to keep themselves awake (see below).
- Driving drowsy. Driving while drowsy is as dangerous as driving drunk. Truck drivers often spend many hours behind the wheel each day and drive at odd hours dictated by traffic conditions and delivery schedules. This leads drivers to feel fatigue behind the wheel that can make them more vulnerable to accidents.
Potential Consequences of Truck AccidentsAbout one in 10 highway deaths each year involve large trucks. Typically, truck drivers themselves walk away with more minor injuries, because the sheer mass of the truck protects them. In contrast, truck accidents can leave passenger car occupants dealing with serious injuries, including:
- Spinal cord damage. Spinal cord damage can leave victims paralyzed or in chronic pain.
- Traumatic brain injury. Traumatic brain injuries can put victims in comas and cause them long-term motor and cognitive deficits.
- Traumatic amputations. The violent force of a collision with a truck can crush a car and pin, crush, or amputate its occupants’ limbs.
- Broken bones and soft tissue damage. Passenger car occupants may consider themselves lucky to escape a collision with a truck with only broken bones or soft tissue damage, even when these injuries cause significant pain and disability.