One of motorists’ biggest fears in sharing the road with tractor-trailers is being struck by them. One of the reasons this scares them is because the sheer size difference between a passenger car and an 18-wheeler is significant. A semi-truck can also weigh significantly more than a car. On top of all that, truckers spend long amounts of time on the road, which may lead to fatigue, resulting in driver errors.
Below we’re going to discuss how many tractor-trailer crashes occur annually and how often truck accidents are fatal. We’ll also detail what can be done to prevent these crashes and what options you have if a truck accident claimed the life of your loved one here in Lexington, KY.
How Common Are Truck Accidents?
An estimated 6.5% of all accidents are truck ones. This means that as many as 388,000 truck-involved accidents occur annually in the United States. Of those, at least 28%, or 107,000, result in injuries. An estimated 11% result in fatalities.
Truck crashes that tend to result in the most fatalities are the ones that involve a tractor-trailer and a passenger car. Nearly one-half of the 4,415 truck accident-related fatalities during the most recently reported year claimed passenger car occupants’ lives.
A combination of U.S. Department of Transportation and Insurance Institute of Highway Safety data shows that at least 60% of fatal truck accidents result from head-on collisions with a tractor-trailer.
What Causes Truck Accident Fatalities?
Five primary factors result in tractor-trailer crashes that cause serious injuries or death. These include:
Truckers are subject to DOT Hours of Service regulations restricting how long truckers can spend on the road on a given day and within a week. These regulations also require truckers to take rest periods after spending a certain amount of time on the road.
While the use of electronic logs has reduced instances in which truckers have falsified records to be able to spend more time on the road than they’re allowed to, violations of these regulations still happen, putting the rest of us motorists’ lives in danger.
While the introduction of cell phones and internet-enabled mobile devices on the market has made it easier for truckers who spend extensive time on the road to stay connected with loved ones, this technology has become a major distraction for all motorists.
While Kentucky law prohibits all motorists younger than 18 from cell phone use while their vehicle is in motion, the same doesn’t hold true for drivers aged 18 and over. State law only forbids the latter motorists from reading, writing, or sending text messages while their vehicle is moving.
As you might imagine, the distraction posed by a phone call conversation can be distracting enough. If you add into the mix that truckers, like most drivers, are unlikely to abide by the no-texting law, then it’s no wonder fatal accidents occur.
Poor Truck Maintenance
Federal regulations require all truckers to perform pre-trip inspections before leaving their depot and at various intervals during a long-haul trip. Truckers are supposed to check various truck parts and systems as part of this inspection, including:
- Fluid levels
- Ball joints
- Lights and reflectors
- The clutch
- Tire pressure
- The fifth wheel
- Any leaks
Many truck accidents in Kentucky occur because tractor-trailer operators fail to perform pre-trip inspections that would have helped them identify problems with their trucks.
Additionally, fleet companies may be more intent on keeping their trucks on the go (as this is what makes them money) instead of having regular maintenance performed on them.
Both scenarios above leave us motorists who share the road with these 18-wheelers vulnerable to getting hurt or losing our lives.
Driving Under the Influence
Like any motorist, it’s illegal for truckers to operate their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs here in Kentucky. While the legal limit for most motorists 21 and over is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%, it’s 0.04% for commercial carriers. In addition to this state law, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) prohibits anyone operating a commercial vehicle from consuming alcohol within four hours from when they’re set to go on duty.
While laws and regulations like the ones above exist to discourage truckers from operating an 18-wheeler under the influence of alcohol, it still happens. A recent FMCSA statistic suggested that 3% of truckers involved in fatal tractor-trailer accidents had alcohol in their system. At least 2% of those BACs were 0.08% or higher.
Legal intoxication affects motor skills and a person’s ability to make sound judgments, skillsets critical for motorists to operate their vehicles safely. Thus, it explains why fatal truck accidents may result in scenarios like these.
Truckers often find themselves stuck in traffic, encounter construction zones, travel in inclement weather, share the road with different types of motorists, and deal with other stressors daily as part of their job. These factors can bring out the worst in truckers.
It may motivate them to speed, tailgate, erratically brake, cut in short on another motorist, and engage in otherwise aggressive driving behaviors. Each of these can cause accidents, and deadly ones at that.
Types of Crashes That Result in Fatal Truck Accidents
The following types of truck crashes are more apt to result in a motorist’s death than others:
- Head-on crashes
- Underride accidents
- Rear-end collisions
- T-bone accidents
- Chain reaction crashes
- Jackknife accidents
The speed both motorists were traveling when these incidents occurred can impact how deadly a truck accident is likely to be. Additionally, instances where a passenger car becomes stuck under and dragged by a truck are likely to adversely impact crash survivability.
Damages That Are Recoverable in Truck Accident Fatality Cases
A loved one’s loss can turn your life upside down on multiple levels. Not only is there the loss of your relative’s physical presence, but also the emotional and financial support they provide. Plus, life-saving or end-of-life medical care can be expensive. So too can funeral and burial costs. There’s also their lost wages. Fortunately, Kentucky law allows you to recover compensation for all of these damages and losses.
A truck accident resulting in a fatality may warrant filing a wrongful death claim. You may additionally be able to recover lost future earnings your loved one would have earned in a Lexington personal injury case like this.
Why Consult With an Attorney After a Truck Accident?
Proving liability following a semi-truck collision can be challenging. Insurers will pull out all the stops necessary to deny liability to avoid having to pay a settlement—especially in a fatal truck accident case, since compensation can be in the millions in some cases.
Grieving the untimely loss of a loved one is challenging enough. Doing so when you’re under financial stress and have to deal with insensitive insurance adjusters is even harder. The Law Office of Todd W. Burris can evaluate your case and get to work advocating for you and your deceased loved one as soon as today.
Reach out to us to let us know your availability to meet for an initial consultation to discuss the Lexington truck accident that unnecessarily claimed your loved one’s life.