Causation Data in Truck Accidents

Would you be surprised to learn the most common cause of tractor trailer truck accidents is driver fatigue or impairment? The human element is known for imperfection, however, on the open American roadways it can mean truck accidents, injuries and even death.

Nearly half of all serious truck accidents result from driver fatigue or impairment; another 30% are the result of driving too fast for conditions. It would appear that America’s highway cowboys are putting the pedal to the metal in the diamond lane to disaster. Of course, even as they acknowledge the validity of government researchers’ findings, personal injury attorneys who represent victims of trucking accidents interpret the numbers and assign responsibility very differently. Critically re-examining crash causation data, attorneys argue commercial drivers are not so much merchants of mechanized death as they are victims of a system set-up to exploit them and cash-in on their passion for their profession, as well as the all too often exploiting of their human capital.

Drilling down on deceptive data
Truck accident statistics are a little deceptive—especially in their summary forms. The numbers indicate, when big trucks collide with little cars, responsibility splits about fifty-fifty. In defiance of common sense and the conventional wisdom, the numbers also indicate truck drivers and car drivers suffer serious injuries or die at approximately the same rates in serious crashes. One statistic, however, especially stands-out: More than 60% of big-rig accidents occur in broad daylight on uncrowded rural roads under clear and dry conditions. Whereas raging “road Rambos” allege careening little cars are big truck drivers’ most common road hazard, because either the average motorist does not know or neglects the risks of sharing the roads with eighteen-wheelers, the numbers tell a different story.

In the landmark 2007 “Large Truck Crash Causation Study”, federal Department of Transportation researchers assigned three major types of critical events to large-truck accidents:

• Running out of the travel lane, either into another lane or off the road (32 percent of the large trucks in the LTCCS sample were assigned this critical event) –Examining “critical events,” the LTTCCS shifted analysts’ typical focus from accidents’ precipitating causes to their proximate causes; and this first finding indicates how aggregating data assign greater weight to geometry and physics than they deserve. The finding appears to beg the question, “Why did the trucks run out of their travel lanes?” Drilling down on the why, researchers most often blamed driver fatigue for their failure to regulate their speed and direction. Attorneys, however, press the inquiry one-step further, asking, “Why are drivers so fatigued?” Their investigations indicate the Hours of Service regulations that took effect in 2005 still do not afford drivers sufficient rest and recovery time, and major carriers’ time-and-distance requirements encourage drivers to exceed the limits of their endurance and the speed limits. In fact, most major truck companies still reward drivers for speed more often than safety.

• Vehicle loss of control due to traveling too fast for conditions, cargo shift, vehicle systems failure, poor road conditions, or other reasons (29 percent)—For at least three decades, veteran drivers have described the intoxicating, hypnotic effects of “white line fever”—a manic state that develops over hours of straight-line high-speed driving. White noise from engines and transmissions combines with the illusion of infinite regress into the visual horizon, numbing drivers to their speed; they literally cannot feel how fast they are going, and the hypnotic state compromises their peripheral vision. Although they feel wide-awake, they do not recognize common stimuli or subtle changes in driving conditions, and they frequently cannot account for the passage of long periods of time. They just keep driving into the horizon. When conditions change, therefore, they are jolted into complete consciousness, and their fight-or-flight reflexes often prompt them to over-react to relatively minor stimuli. Colliding with the rear end of another vehicle in the truck’s travel lane (22 percent)—Aggregating the data in this category considerably distorts the picture, because the majority of these incidents result from heavy traffic and motorists’ erratic behavior on crowded mid-city freeways and expressways. Automobile drivers are notoriously insensitive to big-rigs’ blind spots and need for increased stopping distances. Whereas most corporate commercial vehicles carry rear-end blind-spot warnings, they do not similarly caution motorists about Peterbilts’, Kenworths’, and Freightliners’ huge front-end blind-spots, so that drivers of small cars become completely invisible to truckers when they cut into trucking lanes without allowing a proper “space cushion.” Many truck accident lawyers believe it is just a matter of time before victims’ families file product liability suits against major truck manufacturers because of these “visibility defects”.

Have you or a loved one been injured or someone you love been killed in a truck accident on the roadway? If so, we urge you to contact Zinda Law Group law firm to acquire experienced legal representation to handle your claim against a trucking company and its driver. It makes no difference who was at fault their may still be a claim on your part and you need an experienced truck accident injury lawyer to take a look at your case before taking someone’s else’s word that you are to blame. Call us at 800-863-5312.