Yesterday, ten people were killed in northern California when a FedEx truck veered across a grassy highway median and struck a bus filled with high school students en route to a college visit, causing an explosion. According to USA Today, the truck driver and the bus driver were among the dead, along with eight passengers on the bus. In addition, an estimated 36 or 37 other bus occupants suffered injuries ranging from life-threatening to minor. The victims were reported to suffer burns, broken bones, and head injuries. First responders reported that the aftermath was nothing short of catastrophic. "The victims were all teenage kids. A lot of them were freaked out. They were shocked. They still couldn't grasp what happened," said Jason Wyman of the Volunteer Fire Department in Orland, CA. In the coming weeks, authorities and safety officials will conduct an investigation into what factors may have contributed to this terrible crash.
Because of their massive size and weight, accidents involving large commercial trucks can be extremely dangerous for other vehicle occupants. Here are a few factors that commonly play a role in these crashes.
• Driver fatigue. Truck drivers are notorious for working long hours with little rest, and research indicates that fatigue plays in a key role in many collisions involving large commercial trucks. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), truckers are twice as likely to crash after driving for more than eight hours at a time.
• Nighttime driving. Driving after dark can be tricky for all motorists. In low-light conditions, a driver's depth perception and peripheral vision are not as sharp as they are during the daylight hours, which makes it even more difficult to judge a semi's speed and proximity. Federal data reveals that roadway fatalities happen at a rate three times greater at night compared to the daytime.
• Inclement weather. Conditions like rain, snow and fog can complicate roadway travel, especially for semi-trucks, which can be even more difficult to maneuver in poor weather.
• Driver inexperience. Young drivers tend to have higher accident risks, regardless of what kind of vehicle they're operating. The IIHS reports that research "conducted in Australia, New Zealand and the United States [indicates] that truck drivers younger than 21 and in their 20s have a higher rate of involvement in both fatal and nonfatal crashes than older drivers."