Any crash involving an 18-wheeler is likely to be catastrophic. That’s because these are not small passenger vehicles. They don’t get into fender-benders. These vehicles fly down interstates at 80 miles per hour or more, bringing with them the force of up to 80,000 pounds.
The result? Serious injuries and tragic deaths. Truck crashes killed 121 people and injured 2,629 on Alabama roads in 2018 alone, according to the Alabama Department of Transportation. But why do these accidents happen so often? In this post, we examine the five most common causes of truck accidents in Alabama.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
A lot goes into loading, maintaining and operating a tractor-trailer. When anyone involved in the care or driving of a large truck is careless, a deadly accident can happen. While many types of negligence can cause Alabama truck accidents, some of the causes of truck accidents are more common than others.
1. Drowsy Driving
Truck drivers face long days and nights on the road. And their employers often pressure them to deliver their hauls faster by driving for longer periods of time. Although trucking hours of service rules should prevent drowsy driving, truck drivers and companies often ignore them — with tragic results.
In 2018, 210 people in Alabama were injured in truck accidents caused by drowsy driving. Nationally, 18,000 commercial trucks are thought to be involved in accidents in which the trucker was fatigued each year, according to a study from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
For drivers of passenger vehicles, a drowsy truck driver can be hard to avoid on the road. This is particularly true on highways and interstates, where every vehicle is moving at high speed. Drowsy truck drivers may swerve or drift between lanes, directly hitting other vehicles or running them off the road.
2. Distracted Driving
When truck drivers are on the road, they are at work just like someone sitting at their desk in an office. Imagine how often an office worker browses Facebook or engages in some other distraction. Truckers can and do engage in similar distractions while they’re driving, and this is a major cause of Alabama truck accidents.
Across the United States, an estimated 11,000 large trucks are involved in accidents caused by an external distraction each year. This could be anything outside of the vehicle, such as a billboard or animal. And 3,000 trucks each year are thought to be in crashes caused by internal distractions like texting or eating.
In Alabama, many of the causes of truck accidents involve factors that are likely due to distracted driving. These include crossing the median or center line (causing 283 Alabama truck accidents in 2018), running off the road (148 accidents) and failing to heed a traffic signal (277 crashes).
What seems like a simple distraction to a trucker amounts to a severe accident for countless Alabama drivers each year.
3. Drunk Driving
Sadly, far too many truck drivers drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Even sadder is the number of accidents and injuries this behavior causes every single year. Data from 2018 shows that 119 truck accidents were the result of the trucker driving while intoxicated.
Drinking and driving is never OK. But doing so when you operate a 40-ton vehicle is reckless. Drunk driving truck accidents lead to wrongful death and life-altering injuries nearly every day.
4. Defective Equipment
Semi-trucks and 18-wheelers are massive vehicles with lots of parts. That means there are a lot of chances for malfunctions that lead to serious accidents. Anything from bad brakes or malfunctioning signal lights to vehicle fires and explosive cargo can cause one of these crashes.
In Alabama, this was one of the most common causes of truck accidents in 2018. Defective equipment was tied to 431 truck accidents that year. And while malfunctions often lead to accidents that only involve the truck, there is no guarantee of safety for other drivers. When something goes wrong with a vehicle that large, everyone else on the road is at risk.
5. Insufficient Driver Training
To become a truck driver, you have to go through a rigorous licensing program. That is what the law requires, but it is not always what trucking companies offer to new drivers. Insufficient training can easily cause a serious truck accident.
It is often difficult to know when poor driver training is the reason a truck accident happened, but the FMCSA estimated that as many 7,000 trucks each year are involved in accidents caused by driver performance problems. Performance issues included poor control of the vehicle, panicking and overcompensating while driving the truck.
Other drivers are not responsible for poor truck driver training practices, but they are too often the victims of this issue.
Seek Legal Action If You’re a Victim of an Alabama Truck Accident
The common causes of truck accidents discussed above all have something in common: They are all the result of negligence. Whether the trucker, trucking company or vehicle manufacturer was negligent, Alabama law allows victims of such accidents to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.
Truck accidents have catastrophic effects on victims’ lives. And while no amount of money can undo what happened, fair compensation is a good place to start. That is why the Alabama truck accident lawyers at Warren & Simpson have spent their careers fighting for victims of truck crashes and other accidents. We want justice for our clients. And we know how to get it.
Our attorneys have won more than 2,000 cases, and we take only a few cases at a time to make sure every client gets the full attention they deserve. To get legal help after a truck accident, call Warren & Simpson at 256-539-7575 or contact us online.