Do Tractor Trailers Increase Driving Risks?

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When focusing on safety and motor vehicle accidents, drivers are more likely to be on the lookout for other cars or SUVs on the road. Although these more commonly driven vehicles are involved in more car accidents, studies show that tractor trailers and truck accidents are the leading cause of serious personal injuries and deaths on the roadways. Unfortunately, it is usually innocent parties who suffer the consequences of the dangers that tractor trailers pose on the road.

Research reflects that most victims of the fatal accidents are occupants of smaller vehicles sharing the road with tractor trailers, also known as 18-wheelers or semis. The remaining victims are divided among occupants of the tractor trailer, pedestrians, and people riding motorcycles or bicycles at the time of the accident. Therefore, it is important for everyone who shares the road with tractor trailers to understand the accompanying risks.

There are several ways that trailer tractors and other large trucks increase driving risks. Tractor trailers are much taller and heavier than smaller vehicles, take longer to both stop and accelerate, and require greater focus to operate. Fatal truck accidents involving tractor trailers continue to increase each year, owing to truck driver fatigue, distracted or careless driving, and reckless driving speeds.

One reason for the higher number of fatal accidents could be truck drivers feeling increased pressure to meet tight schedules. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits the number of hours a commercial driver is permitted to drive a truck; although commercial carriers are bound by this limitation and other regulations, violations continue to occur. When violations of established limitations and regulations result in truck accidents, injured victims are able to hold several different parties liable.

What Are Common Causes of Accidents Involving Tractor Trailers?

Tractor trailer accidents can occur for several reasons, some unpredictable. However, most truck accidents are caused by the negligence of truck drivers or related entities. The most common causes of accidents involving tractor trailers include the following:

  • Driving too fast for conditions: Weather and road conditions can have a major impact on a truck driver’s route, and there is often pressure to make up lost time on the road. Speeding remains a leading cause of all motor vehicle accidents, including those involving tractor trailers. Unsafe road conditions and bad weather are risks truck drivers cannot control; however, the manner in which they react to those conditions can decrease the likelihood of a truck accident.
  • Crossing lanes: Tractor trailer accidents are often the result of truck drivers traveling over the center line or off the road. This can occur when truckers are distracted by communicating with other drivers, eating while driving, or using their smartphones. Truck drivers who are fatigued after traveling long hours on a work route are more likely to drift across lanes. Anytime a tractor trailer crosses over the center lane or off the road, it poses risk for other vehicles that can be struck or forced into other traffic.
  • Shifting loads and dangerous cargo: Loading errors can make tractor trailers unstable and unsafe. An improperly loaded tractor trailer can cause freight to fall off the truck, which leads to dangerous hazards for other drivers and nearby pedestrians. Tractor trailers are often used to transport hazardous materials, such as chemicals that can spill. Dangerous cargo can present driving risks, as well as health and environmental hazards.
  • Poor truck maintenance: Tractor trailers require vigilant maintenance because of their size and the distance they travel. It is recommended that truck drivers perform a so-called circle check around their rig before every departure to look for any issues that need immediate attention, such as blown out headlights or signal lights and tire problems. Defective components or mechanical failure involving brakes, steering wheels, engines, and transmissions are common contributing factors to accidents involving tractor trailers.
  • Truck driver performance: Recent studies show that driving while fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a common cause of truck accidents. Truck drivers should prioritize their sleep, understand their limits, and pull off when they need a break. As with every motorist, it is imperative that truck drivers under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs never take the road.
  • Wide turns: Truck drivers are often required to make wide turns during the course of their routes. To stay on the road and avoid hitting poles, signposts, and pedestrians, truck drivers often need to use multiple lanes to make these turns. Unfortunately, they do not always make wide turns properly, which puts others at risk for truck accidents and serious injuries.
  • Inadequate stopping distances: Fully loaded tractor trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and require greater stopping distance than other vehicles. Truck drivers are required to allow plenty of room between their tractor trailers and the vehicles in front of them. When truckers tailgate or drive aggressively, truck accidents can happen when traffic stops abruptly.
  • Blind spots: Semis and 18-wheelers have blind spots that are much bigger than those of smaller vehicles. This is especially dangerous when their drivers are unable to see smaller vehicles while switching lanes. Truck drivers often have multiple blind spots, including those close in front, directly behind, to the left, and especially to the right side of the trailer; therefore, it is important that they maintain awareness of their surroundings to prevent serious accidents.
  • Inadequate training: Tractor trailers can be difficult and dangerous to handle, especially when their drivers are not trained properly. Truck drivers must undergo special training to obtain a commercial driver’s license. Unfortunately, this training typically involves a limited number of hours on the road, and often in a tractor trailer carrying a minimal load. As a result, not all truck drivers have the preparation and skills needed to handle large trucks, leading to unqualified drivers putting others at risk.

What Are Different Types of Accidents Involving Tractor Trailers?

There are a number of types of tractor trailer accidents that can cause serious harm to drivers and other innocent parties, including the following:

  • Jackknife accidents: Jackknifing happens when the trailer of a truck swings out, forming an acute angle with the truck’s cab. Large commercial trucks and 18-wheelers are especially susceptible to jackknife accidents, which puts everyone on the road at risk. Jackknifing usually occurs when truck drivers brake too suddenly, although there are several other causes, including poorly adjusted brakes, problems downshifting, and turns taken too quickly. In a jackknife accident, the trailer of the truck usually hits other vehicles in oncoming traffic, which can result in multiple vehicle collisions.
  • Rollover accidents: If tractor trailer drivers lose control of their heavy trucks, particularly while speeding or taking turns too sharply, their large trucks can roll over and slide on the road. Tractor trailers have a higher center of gravity than other vehicles, which makes them more likely to roll over. When these rollovers happen, it is common for other vehicles and its occupants to be taken down as well. This can lead to severe injuries and sometimes fatal wounds.
  • Underride accidents: These traumatic accidents happen when a car or other small vehicle travels underneath the body of a tractor trailer. Underride accidents usually have severe outcomes, including head injuries, brain injuries, and decapitation to the other vehicles’ occupants. Certain truck companies are required to equip their vehicles with reflective tape and rear bumpers; many tractor trailers still do not have the proper underride safety protections.
  • Rear-end collisions: In most rear-end accidents involving tractor trailers, the truck hits the smaller vehicle from behind, resulting in an accident and subsequent injuries. These collisions are more serious than other rear-end accidents because of the height and weight of the tractor, often causing major injuries to the occupants of the rear-ended vehicle. Tractor trailers take longer to break and stop, which can present risks to other drivers.
  • Tire blowouts: When massive tire blowouts happen on the scale of large tractor trailers, they can lead to truck drivers losing control and cause dangerous rollovers, loosened loads, projected debris, and additional hazards to other motorists and pedestrians.

What Should I Do If I Am Involved in a Tractor Trailer Accident?

Whenever a tractor trailer is involved in a motor vehicle accident, the resulting injuries are likely to be severe and life-altering. It is essential to hire a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer if you or your loved one has been injured by a tractor trailer in a motor vehicle accident. The legal procedure and claims process involved differ from those in a regular car accident and require the experience of a truck accident lawyer.

An experienced truck accident lawyer understands the type of discovery involved, including detailed information and investigation related to the tractor trailer driver and trucking company. Today, most commercial trucks are equipped with digital tracking systems that give detailed information about the truck’s location, speed, acceleration, velocity, and even steering. A skilled truck accident lawyer will secure that detailed evidence to further all legal claims in pursuit of appropriate compensation.

Commercial truck industry regulations, combined with the multiple factors that are typically involved with these accidents, make truck accident cases more legally complex than other kinds of car accident cases. It is advisable for injured truck accident parties to hire a reputable truck accident lawyer to handle their legal matters.

Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Provide Guidance for Clients Involved in Tractor Trailer Accidents

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a truck accident, reach out to the Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Our dedicated and experienced team will handle the complicated legal process so that you can recover from your physical injuries and emotional trauma. We will fight to ensure that you receive full and fair financial compensation. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.