I’ve handled many, too many to count really, vehicle accident cases in my twenty plus years as an attorney. Every case had it’s own particular story and I have listened to and sympathized with every one of my clients and their families while successfully fighting to win judgments or obtain settlements that were fair in their cases. Looking back, I have to say the most violent and most memorable accidents whose victims I have represented have been those where my client was hit by a tractor trailer truck somewhere along the roadways of Tennessee. It’s obvious why these types of wrecks are so hard to survive and recover from, they involve the largest vehicle on our roads, an 18-wheeler, hitting a passenger vehicle. The passenger vehicle always loses as do its occupants. I’ve learned a few sobering facts while investigating and trying these cases and I would like to share them with you. In a recent National Highway Transportation & Safety Association (NHTSA) report:
- 65% of all truck drivers report they either sometimes or often felt drowsy and sleep deprived while they were driving their truck.
- 48% of all truck drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel of their semi-truck.
- Commercial vehicle crashes are 7 times more likely to be fatal to other drivers on the road and are estimated to cost nearly $48 billion (with a “b”!) per year due to death, injury, and property damage.
- During the hours of darkness, only 25% of traffic operates and during that time 55% of fatal truck crashes occur.
There are 3 main reasons for truck crashes: 87% Driver Error; 10% Vehicle Defect; and 3% Environment. Another interesting fact is that obesity is epidemic among truck drivers. Most truckers cite irregular schedules, lack of access to good nutritious foods, and an inability to schedule time to regularly exercise as the cause for their problem. The same NHTSA study I cited from above says that obese truckers are 43% to 55% more likely to be involved in a crash compared to truckers with a normal body mass index.
I’ll close with a warning about the visibility of big rig trucks at night. Conspicuity-Related Collisions are on the rise. These occur when the truck and trailer are not properly illuminated with DOT approved reflective tape that is clean and properly placed. Vehicles approaching the poorly marked truck from the rear cannot “perceive” the form of the slow moving truck and hit it from behind; thereby proving it’s not always the person in the rear who is at fault, especially when the accident involves a semi-truck.
I drive more carefully around big trucks now that “I know too much”. I hope you do the same!