Kansas City Truck Accident Lawyer Doug Horn Comments on Recent Trends Involving Commercial Motor Vehicles
According to data provided by the Missouri Department of Transportation, commercial motor vehicles, including big trucks, are causing more roadway fatalities on Missouri roads.
The data shows there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of people killed in commercial motor vehicle crashes between 2014 and 2018. There is currently no data yet for 2019, but crash experts anticipate that the upward trend will continue.
There are a variety of reasons why trucks crash, but everybody seems to agree that the main reason is that there are more trucks on the road than ever before. With more trucks on the road, the average amount of “truck miles” driven annually on Missouri highways continues to skyrocket. Take a look at the statistics.
Missouri Truck Accident Statistics
In 2014, there were 113 traffic fatalities involving commercial vehicles driving approximately 27 million Missouri truck miles. By comparison, in 2018, there were a total of 146 deaths (33 more deaths) in over 30 million Missouri truck miles.
Given those 2018 statistics, for every 205,000 miles driven by trucks in Missouri, we can expect one fatality. That is way too much risk for Missouri motorists.
Principle Causes of Truck Accidents
The causes of truck accidents are not always obvious right away, but after accident investigations, securing important crash evidence, and accident reconstructions, we can often determine the probable cause of these crashes.
Some of the most common reasons for truck crashes involve improper lane changes. A big truck has many blind spots, and attempted lane changes can be deadly if a truck driver doesn’t give a proper amount of room and/or regulate speed to execute the lane change. If a motorist driving a car gets pinned by a truck coming into their lane at highway speeds, the results can be devastating.
Distracted driving is another major reason for the recent surge in truck accidents. Truck drivers, even though they are prohibited by federal law from using their personal cell phones, repeatedly fall to the temptation of picking up their cell phones while trying to drive. Steering a truck with one hand with your eyes diverted from the road is a recipe for disaster. The risk of a violent crash increases about 4 times in this scenario.
While cell phones are the most common distraction for truck drivers, smoking, eating, and monitoring GPS systems also account for distractions. Truck companies have been taking steps to reduce distractions, but oftentimes it simply comes down to the personal responsibility of the truck drivers to resist the urge to pick up their phone.
Other common reasons for truck accidents are discussed below.
Truck drivers are required to drive long distances, and this requires them to be on the road for hours at a time without a lot of rest. An overworked driver is more likely to doze off, lose concentration, or experience decreased coordination behind the wheel. While drivers don’t want to be on the roads when they are tired, many feel obligated to drive longer hours than they should due to the pressure they are under to deliver their loads within a certain time frame, which is often not long enough to realistically allow them to get to the destination and get the proper amount of sleep.
Lack of Training
Semi-truck drivers are required to complete training hours before taking a commercial vehicle on public roads, and there are all kinds of rules that drivers are supposed to follow when on the road. However, not all truck drivers follow these rules, and some are even undertrained. When a driver doesn’t have enough experience, it is easy for them to become incredibly dangerous behind the wheel. Inexperienced drivers may also be put in vehicles that they have no experience with.
There are many reasons that an inexperienced driver may end up on the roadways, but often it is due to trucking companies putting new drivers on the road too soon.
Poor Truck Maintenance
Semis require a lot of maintenance. There are laws that specify what the condition of the truck has to be in to have it on the road, but that doesn’t mean that all truck owners or drivers are in compliance with these laws. While all owners may have their own reasons for not properly maintaining their trucks, often it is due to the cost and time associated with making these repairs.
Alcohol or Drugs
Driving a car while under the influence of either drugs or alcohol is very dangerous, but when a drunk or high driver is behind the wheel of a vehicle that can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, the outcome is often deadly. Unfortunately, many truck drivers have been caught using alcohol and non-medicinal drugs while operating these large vehicles.
Illegal drugs aren’t the only culprits for impaired driving. Many prescription medications have also been known to reduce coordination and judgment for those who take them, which can lead to accidents.
One way that truck drivers ensure that they are going to reach their destination on time is to speed. However, there are many things that can slow a driver down. For example, poor driving conditions, traffic jams, and breakdowns can all put a driver behind schedule. These drivers feel pressure to deliver their loads on time so that they don’t lose their jobs, which can lead to speeding. A large semi with a lot of weight has a harder time slowing down quickly, and a driver could easily rear-end another vehicle if they aren’t able to stop in time. This reduced reaction time can have a deadly impact on others on the road. When you consider that speeding drivers also often get a little too close to the cars in front of them, you are looking at a high-risk situation.
A driver that is in a hurry is also more likely to try to pass other vehicles on the road. To keep up with the flow of traffic, this means that these trucks are moving at a considerable pace. Other instances involve semi drivers cutting cars off in the passing lane, which can lead smaller vehicles to swerve or get hit. As the smaller vehicle swerves, they might end up veering off the road, leading to serious injuries and even death.
The cargo in trucks needs to be carefully loaded to prevent issues on the road. In some cases, loads are not properly secured, or weight isn’t properly distributed throughout the trailer, which can make the truck more prone to jack-knifing or being difficult to maneuver.