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18-Wheeler Accidents On the Rise


Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published its 2012 Annual Report, which provides a wide variety of data and statistics on traffic accidents and fatalities. Notably, the annual report includes data on people injured or killed in accidents involving 18-wheelers, which are large trucks with a gross weight of more than 10,000 pounds. These are also called semi-trucks or tractor-trailers.

The report indicates that there were 3,921 fatalities and 104,000 individuals injured in truck accidents with 18-wheelers in 2012, and that around 317,000 of these large trucks were involved in traffic crashes that year. The report also found that there was greater likelihood that large trucks, as opposed to passenger vehicles, were involved in fatal multi-vehicle crashes.

More Fatalities in South Carolina

According to the NHTSA’s report, there has been an increase in fatalities from large truck accidents in South Carolina. Specifically, the report indicated that 79 of the total 1,163 vehicles involved in fatal crashes in South Carolina involved 18-wheelers. The South Carolina Department of Public Safety’s Traffic Collision Fact Book confirms this finding — from 2008 to 2012, there was a 25.5% increase in the number of fatalities from collisions involving tractor trailers. Nationwide, fatalities in accidents involving 18-wheelers increased by 4% from 3,781 in 2011 to 3,921 in 2012. From the data gathered in 2012, 73% of these fatalities were occupants of other vehicles, 10% were nonoccupants, and 18% were occupants of the large trucks themselves.

Common Causes of Tractor Trailer Accidents

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stated in a report to Congress regarding its Large Truck Crash Causation Study that a majority of crashes involving large trucks involved four types of driver errors. These errors include:

  • Non-performance – the driver fell asleep, became helpless by a heart attack or seizure, or was physically disabled for another reason.
  • Recognition – the driver did not recognize the situation by failing to pay proper attention, by being distracted, or failing to observe adequately.
  • Decision – the driver drove too fast for the existing road conditions, failed to accurately judge the speed of other vehicles or followed them too closely, or made false assumptions about the actions of other drivers.
  • Performance – the driver froze, overcompensated, or exercised poor directional control.

The study found that the top driver errors involved in large truck crashes were:

  • Prescription drug use
  • Driving too fast for road conditions
  • Unfamiliarity with roadways
  • Over-the-counter drug use
  • Inadequate surveillance
  • Fatigue
  • Work-related pressure
  • Illegal maneuvers
  • Inattention
  • External distraction factors

The study also found that brake, tire, or wheel failures and shifting cargoes also played a factor in a large number of crashes. These factors would support a claim against the truck driver and his or her company. Additionally, if a defective brake, tire, or wheel contributed to the accident, or if the truck was not maintained properly, manufacturers and maintenance contractors may also be held liable. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a large truck, contact the truck accident attorneys of Pierce, Sloan, Kennedy & Early LLC today for a free initial consultation.

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