According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there are over 2 million tractor-trailers registered in the United States. Although those 2 million semi-trucks represent only 4 percent of all registered vehicles, they are involved in 8 percent of all fatal accidents during an average year.
In Washington State, large trucks were involved in 1,344 non-fatal crashes in 2010. This means that over 100 tractor-trailer accidents occur each month in Washington. In 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 27 people in Washington lost their lives as a result of a crash involving a tractor-trailer or other large commercial vehicle.
Although a tractor-trailer collision can occur for a wide variety of reasons, some of the more common reasons include:
- Distracted driving — Distracted driving is a serious safety problem for all drivers. However, truck drivers are particularly at risk for driving distracted given the amount of time they spend on the road. This can increase the likelihood that a truck driver will be using a cellphone while driving. Although federal law bans texting while driving for all commercial drivers, this does not ensure that they will all abide by the law. In addition, truck drivers often use navigational devices to plan their route, which is another common form of distraction for drivers.
- Drowsy driving — Given the long hours a truck driver spends on the road, it should come as no surprise that fatigued driving, or driving while drowsy, is a common factor in tractor-trailer collisions. Federal rules limit the number of hours a truck driver can spend on the road between rest periods. However, not all truck drivers abide by the law. Because truck drivers themselves are responsible for logging their hours of service and a driver’s income is often dependent and the number of miles traveled or loads delivered, there is considerable potential for violation of the rules. Some trucking companies put pressure on drivers to falsify their logs and drive while too tired.
- Impaired driving — Federal law requires commercial drivers to submit to random alcohol and drug testing. While this has decreased the incidence of impaired driving, it has far from eliminated the problem. Many truck drivers still use over-the-counter medications and even illegal stimulants to stay awake behind the wheel. Even legitimate prescription medications could have side effects that cause a truck driver to be too drowsy to drive safely.
- Speeding/reckless driving — Experts consistently report that speed is a leading factor in accidents throughout the United States. Not only does a driver who is driving over the speed limit create a risk for others on the road, but a driver who is driving too fast for conditions does as well. In the case of tractor-trailer drivers, they often follow too closely behind other vehicles to be able to stop if necessary. They are also known to weave in and out of traffic and engage in other reckless driving behavior that can lead to a crash. Often, this behavior is the result of a driver’s trying to meet virtually impossible delivery schedules.
- Road conditions — All drivers should slow down and heed warnings relating to road conditions. Tractor-trailer operators should be particularly careful when road conditions turn dangerous because of the damage they can inflict if involved in a collision. Unfortunately, some truck drivers fail to heed those warnings and end up sliding, jackknifing, or colliding with another vehicle on ice, rain or snow-covered roads.
- Equipment malfunction — Tractor-trailer drivers are required to complete safety inspections of their vehicle on a regular basis according to federal law. Unfortunately, some trucking companies skimp on maintenance to save money, putting other motorists at risk.
Our Yakima Truck Accident Lawyers Can Help If You Have Been Injured
Contact the Washington State tractor-trailer accident attorneys today at the Mariano Morales Law Firm at (509) 972-0493, or use our online contact form. Your initial consultation is free of charge.