Semi-trucks, eighteen wheelers and other commercial vehicles are now part of everyday life on our roads and highways. We rely on them to get our products and materials. However, the emergence of the trucking industry has created a new problem that claims the lives of thousands of Kentuckians each year: semi-truck accidents.
There are close to two million semi-trucks in operation throughout the country. Although these large vehicles represent less than 1% of the vehicles on our roads and highways, nearly 10% of all Kentucky traffic fatalities involve big rigs. A big truck’s weight and size make them the most dominant force on the road. Passenger vehicles don’t stand a chance against a fully-loaded tractor trailer, which can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.
Furthermore, the trucking industry is always working to make a profit. Employers often push their drivers to meet deadlines. Some truckers elect to increase their speed or drive longer than allowed by federal regulations to reach their destination on time. Because of this, thousands of people are seriously injured or killed each year by negligent truck drivers and trucking companies.
Clearly, these large vehicles pose a unique threat to motorists, but understanding why these accidents happen can help to protect you and your family.
Common Causes of Semi Truck Accidents
Kentucky alone experiences nearly 10,000 accidents involving a semi-truck or other commercial vehicle each year. A study conducted by the Kentucky Transportation Center (KTC) analyzed years of traffic data to determine how and why these collisions occur. The study found that most of these accidents were caused by driver error and could have been prevented.
The following are some of the most commonly cited factors in large truck crashes:
Driver Inattention/Distracted Driving
The most common cause of truck accidents in Kentucky is distracted driving or driver inattention. Distracted driving is any activity that diverts your attention away from the road, including texting on your phone, changing the radio station, and eating. According to the KTC, distracted driving was a contributing factor in over 39% of all truck accidents in 2019.
There are several reasons why driver inattention is so prevalent but chief among them is boredom, which is the main culprit of distracted driving. Transporting goods across the country often requires long hours behind the wheel with more opportunities for a collision to occur. Since driving requires focus and concentration, fatigue and boredom become serious concerns.
Truckers also spend thousands of hours behind the wheel and travel hundreds of thousands of miles to deliver their cargo. To keep their mind occupied, truck drivers may engage in several activities that can divert their attention from the road.
Although responding to a text or looking at a map only takes a few seconds, that may be all it takes for a serious accident resulting in permanent injury or death to occur.
Failing to Yield (Right of Way)
Another common cause of semi-truck accidents is failing to yield to right of way. When a driver has the right-of-way, other vehicles must yield before continuing. Failure to yield accidents often lead to serious injuries, especially when they involve vehicles weighing over 50,000 pounds.
For truckers, these types of accidents often occur at intersections or while merging onto another roadway. Left-hand turns and lane changes are particularly dangerous, as it can be difficult for truckers to judge the space or time it will take to complete a turn and safely avoid oncoming traffic.
If a big rig pulls out into traffic and blocks a lane of travel, other vehicles have only a short time to react and may collide with the truck or swerve out of the way. Both scenarios are equally dangerous and pose a serious threat to anyone in the area.
Following Too Closely/Tailgating
Tailgating is a serious problem for passenger vehicles and eighteen-wheelers alike, but there is one major difference. Passenger vehicles, like cars and motorcycles, are much easier to operate and can be slowed down or sped up with relative ease.
Semi-trucks are much more difficult to operate and must have ample time to change speeds. This because semi-trucks are not only significantly larger in size but can be 20-30 times heavier than standard passenger vehicles.
If a truck is following too closely to the vehicle in front of them, they aren’t able adjust to sudden changes in traffic conditions or road conditions.
Many people feel the pressure to meet certain deadlines at work or at home, but most of the time this pressure does not have life-threatening consequences. However, truckers who engage in dangerous driving behaviors to meet a deadline put both themselves and nearby drivers at serious risk.
While speeding may seem like a good option to make up some ground and satisfy their employer’s demands, there are several reasons why this is a bad idea.
Truckers can easily lose control of their vehicle at high speeds, and the amount of time to react to hazards in the road is significantly reduced. Slowing down to avoid a collision is difficult and veering into other lanes is not always possible, which is why so many people are injured by truckers traveling over the speed limit.
Driving Under the Influence
Although the trucking industry is heavily regulated, some truckers have been found to use prescription drugs, alcohol, and illegal substances while on the job. Every state prohibits being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while driving, but this problem is more common than you may think.
Some truckers use drugs or alcohol during their off time only to still feel the effects when working. Others are even more bold and use these substances during long trips, claiming that they were just trying to stay awake.
Regardless of the what the substance is, when they use it, or why they are using it, the fact remains that these substances severely inhibit the driver’s ability to safely operate these massive vehicles. Drivers who are under the influence can cause catastrophic injuries to themselves and everyone else on the road.
What To Do After a Kentucky Truck Accident
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a semi-truck or other commercial vehicle, your first priority is to seek medical attention.
You will likely have substantial medical bills due to the serious injuries these accidents can cause and recovering compensation can be a challenge. Trucking companies are notorious for having teams of attorneys on their side to limit their financial responsibility in an accident, which is why finding a top trucking attorney soon after the accident is crucial.
Fortunately, our attorneys have decade of experience in truck accident litigation and know how to get you the compensation you deserve. We have represented thousands of truck accident victims and collected millions on their behalf. We have the skill and experience to go toe-to-toe with the big trucking companies and will fight to get the compensation you deserve.