The sheer size (usually 20-30 times the passenger cars) of semi-trucks means they can cause catastrophic accidents. It is no surprise commercial truck accidents lead to some of the most severe injuries and fatalities.
In 2019, 16% of the deaths in truck accidents were truck occupants (driver or passenger). On the other hand, 67% were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, while 15% were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. Unfortunately, commercial truck accidents continue to plague Utah’s roads despite increased awareness, vehicle safety, and stricter laws.
If you or your loved one gets into a truck accident, getting medical help would be your priority. The next step would be calling a semi-truck accident attorney. Given how deadly truck accidents can be, you will need to seek higher compensation. That’s where understanding the most common causes of semi-truck accidents can help. It can help you protect your rights and seek justice.
Common Causes of Semi-truck Accidents
Let’s learn about the common causes of semi-truck accidents in Utah.
Speeding is probably the most common cause of truck accidents in Utah as well as the rest of the country. As a leading semi-truck accident attorney in Utah, we often come across cases where speeding is clearly the cause of the accident. Although many trucking companies now use speed trackers or speed limiters on their fleet, not all trucks use this technology.
Plus, many truck drivers are under pressure to make faster deliveries. It’s a common practice to offer incentives for quick deliveries. As a result, truck drivers often tend to step on the gas to make those few extra bucks. That leads to speeding, which can cause deadly crashes.
Speeding is especially dangerous because large vehicles react slowly to the changes in speed. They are also notoriously difficult to maneuver. With drivers having less control, speeding becomes a deadly trap.
If you think the truck driver is responsible for speeding, you must call a semi-truck accident attorney. They can help you hold the trucking company and/or the driver accountable.
Driver fatigue is a serious concern on the road. There are federal and state regulations to keep tired and drowsy drivers off the road. When followed, they can avoid fatigue-related commercial truck accidents.
The latest hours of service (HOS) regulations state that truck drivers must:
- Drive for no more than 11 hours at a time.
- Take a 10-hour break between two consecutive shifts.
- Take a 30-minute break when they have driven for more than 8 cumulative hours.
- Drive for no more than 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.
- Take 34 or more consecutive hours off before restarting 7/8 consecutive days of driving.
Despite these regulations, accidents happen due to lack of sleep. Many truck drivers fail to adhere to these regulations because of company policies, individual incentives, and scheduling practices. Data shows that about 100,000 police-reported drowsy-driving crashes result in nearly 800 fatalities and 50,000 injuries every year.
The real number may be much higher as it is difficult to determine if the driver was drowsy at the time of the accident. That’s why you need a seasoned semi-truck accident attorney. They can help you hold the guilty party accountable.
3. Distracted Driving
This is another common cause of road crashes. But it is far deadlier when large trucks are involved. According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving was responsible for 3,142 deaths in 2020.
Most people think that distracted driving is about texting while driving. Although that is mostly the case, it can be any activity that diverts your attention from driving.
Usually, distracted driving includes:
- Talking or texting on your phone (including receiving text messages)
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to people in your vehicle
- Fiddling with the stereo, entertainment, or navigation system
- Attending to children or pets
- Watching a video
While a bit late to the game, Utah now has a ban on texting while driving. The careless driving law means drivers will face additional charges if they use a handheld cell phone or engage in other distracting behaviors while behind the wheel.
In other words, you must contact an experienced semi-truck accident attorney if you believe distracted driving caused the accident. Your personal injury attorney can help unearth the facts, ensuring you get the compensation you deserve.
4. Driving While Impaired
Drunk or impaired driving is a more common cause of road crashes than you think. That includes commercial truck accidents as well. According to NHTSA, about 32 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes every day – that’s one person every 45 minutes. In 2020, 11,654 people died in alcohol-impaired driving traffic deaths, registering a 14% increase from 2019.
Drunk driving often involves far more than just alcohol. It is illegal for truckers to drive under the influence of opiate painkillers, marijuana, illicit drugs like cocaine and speed, or any other substance that impairs reflexes. Thankfully, Utah is the first and only state to make it illegal to drive with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05% or higher.
And the stricter law is working. An NHTSA study found that after passing this law, Utah saw a 19.8% drop in the fatal crash rate in 2019, and the fatality rate decreased by 18.3%. Still, drunk truck drivers continue to injure and kill people on the road. Seek legal help from a semi-truck accident attorney should you find yourself in this unfortunate situation.
5. Vehicle Failure
Yes, human error (like drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving) is the most common cause of commercial truck accidents. Sometimes, however, technical errors like brake failure, faulty coupling systems, and other mechanical failures are also responsible. In this case, one can’t hold the truck driver alone accountable for the accident. The trucking company or vehicle manufacturer is equally accountable for the crash.
These accidents are often avoidable with proper maintenance. That said, many transport companies take truck maintenance lightly. They fail to make safety checks before sending their fleet on the road. But catching these mistakes is usually not as easy as it sounds. So, you will need the legal assistance of a skilled semi-truck accident attorney.
Commercial truck accidents often result in devastating injuries, deaths, and legal ramifications. In short, you will need to seek higher compensation, making it necessary to understand what causes these accidents. Understanding the causes can help you and your lawyer fight for the compensation you deserve.
Henriksen & Henriksen Law is a leading and trusted law firm in Utah. Backed by decades of experience, our skilled attorneys will leave no stone unturned to help you get the compensation you deserve. For legal help, call us at (801) 521-4145 or fill out our secure online contact form today. We also offer a free 15-minute consultation.