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Truck Crashes Are Often Deadly — and Here’s Why

In southeastern Virginia, just like everywhere else, the interstate highways are always packed with big rigs. Truck accidents are a frequent occurrence — and are most dangerous and deadly to occupants of passenger vehicles. As a truck accident lawyer in Virginia Beach, Jeff Brooke knows the struggles and heartbreak of families who've had a loved one seriously injured or killed in a truck crash. By sharing some important — and even shocking — statistics and facts about why Virginia truck accidents are so deadly, Attorney Brooke hopes everyone will exercise greater caution when driving alongside large trucks on Virginia highways.

Semi TruckPassenger Vehicle Occupants Are at Greater Risk Than Truck Occupants

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) compiles statistics and other information about highway crashes involving trucks, using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) of the U.S. Department of Transportation. IIHS reports that one in every ten highway deaths occurs in a crash involving a large truck. Most deaths in those crashes are occupants of passenger vehicles.

In 2014, the year used in the most recent IIHS study, large trucks were involved in 24%, or almost one quarter, of passenger vehicle deaths in multiple vehicle accidents. Truck occupants accounted for only 16% of deaths in truck accidents. In significant contrast, 68% of deaths were passenger vehicle occupants. The remaining fatalities included motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians. In fatal two-vehicle accidents involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck, 97% of deaths were occupants of the passenger vehicle.

Trucks Are Dangerous For More Reasons Than You Think

IIHS analysis reveals that there are multiple reasons why car passengers are vulnerable to injury and death in an accident involving a truck. The obvious reason trucks are dangerous on highways is the fact that large trucks often weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger vehicles. Truckers also drive many more miles than most passenger car drivers, which increases the probability of an accident. But there’s a lot more to the story.

Truck Height and Ground Clearance

Trucks are taller than passenger vehicles and have greater ground clearance, which often results in underride crashes, which are accidents in which a passenger vehicle goes partially or totally under a truck or trailer. Research shows that rear and side underride guards could prevent these accidents.

Recently, IIHS released the results of crash tests showing that side underride guards have potential to save lives. IIHS also has been testing rear underride guards for several years. In the past few years, IIHS and others have been advocating laws and regulations mandating use of rear and side underride guards on large trucks. In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it was considering more stringent standards — like those already in effect in Canada — but to date no standards have been adopted. Some trailer manufacturers are voluntarily making changes and improvements to address serious and fatal underride accidents.

Braking Distance for Trucks

Braking capability is also sometimes a factor in truck accidents. A loaded tractor trailer takes a distance 20 to 40 percent farther to stop than a car. The difference is even greater when brakes are poorly maintained or roads are wet or snow-covered and slippery.

Large trucks also often roll over during braking and crashes. A requirement for electronic stability control in new truck tractors goes into effect this year and is expected to reduce the number of truck crashes. Implementation of the requirement begins this month.

Truck Driver Fatigue

Truck driver fatigue also causes accidents. IIHS found that truck drivers who have been behind the wheel for more than eight hours are two times more likely to have an accident. A different study also found that drivers violating driving-hour restrictions are more likely to be found at fault for a crash.

Federal law regulates the number of hours a trucker can drive without a break, but surveys reveal that many truck drivers violate the regulations and work longer than permitted by law. Drivers reporting hour violations also are more likely to report falling asleep behind the wheel. In December 2017, electronic logging devices will be required under federal law for drivers required to keep logs and should help with compliance in trucker driving-hour restrictions.

Trucker Drug and Alcohol Use

Alcohol and drug use is less of a problem among truck drivers than passenger vehicle drivers, but alcohol or drug use is a factor in some crashes. Drug use is more frequent than alcohol among truck drivers.

Federal regulations require testing of commercial drivers for drugs and alcohol after crashes and on a random basis. Drug testing is also required before employment.

The Message Is Clear: Driving Alongside Trucks Requires Extra Care and Vigilance

The staggering statistics and information about truck crashes tell a compelling story: You and your passengers are much more likely to be seriously injured if you get involved in an accident with a truck than if you collide with another passenger vehicle. Keeping that in mind — especially when you drive on Virginia interstates where large trucks are plentiful — will help keep you and your family safe.

Talk With a Truck Accident Lawyer in Virginia Beach

Trucking accidents involve many difficult and complex issues — including evidential and legal issues. Commercial trucks are often owned by out-of-state entities. Just knowing who to sue and where to file suit is critical in filing and prevailing in case against a trucking company.

With many years serving clients as a truck accident lawyer in Virginia Beach, Attorney Jeff Brooke has the knowledge and experience that really makes a difference in successfully pursuing a truck crash case. If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries — or if you lost a loved one — in a truck accident in Virginia, we are here to help. Contact us by phone at (757) 552-6055 or by using our online contact form.

Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.

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