As our Missouri personal injury lawyers know, serious injuries are common in semi-truck accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic fatalities decreased by nearly 2% in 2011. However, there was a marked increase (about 20%) in fatal accidents involving large commercial trucks. Government officials say they are "working with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to gather more detailed information on the large truck occupant crashes to better understand the increase in fatalities in 2011."
Why are semi-truck accidents so dangerous?
Numerous factors can contribute to accidents involving semi-trucks, including the following:
• Size and weight. Passenger vehicles are simply no match for semi-trucks, especially not when a collision occurs at highway speeds. In 2011, 3,373 people died in accidents involving large trucks: 66% of those deaths were passenger vehicle occupants, and 16% were motorcyclists, bicyclists or pedestrians. Semis can weigh 20 to 30 times as much as the average passenger vehicle, which means they can cause catastrophic damage to these smaller vehicles, and to their occupants. Furthermore, because of this discrepancy in size and weight, big trucks handle differently than other kinds of vehicles, often requiring at least 20 to 40% farther to stop. Under certain circumstances, large trucks may be simply unable to swerve or stop in time to avoid a collision.
• Blind spots. Semis are taller and have greater ground clearance than other kinds of vehicles, which can make it difficult for truckers to see vehicles traveling near them. Also, because of their large trailers, semis have oversized blind spots on the side of the truck, behind the truck, and in front of the truck's cab. Semi-trucks don't have rearview mirrors, so if you can't see a truck's side mirrors, you should assume the truck driver can't see you.
• Driver fatigue. Truck drivers commonly work long shifts, and even though FMCSA regulations limit the amount of time a trucker can drive in a single stretch, surveys reveal that drivers commonly violate these regulations. NHTSA officials say fatigue is a contributing factor in 30 to 40% of all semi-truck accidents, and is also the probable cause in more than 30% of crashes that cause fatal injury to the truck driver.
Because of these risk factors, Missouri drivers should use special caution when traveling near semis on our state's roadways. We encourage you to allow extra space, avoid lingering in trucker's blind spots, and remember that large trucks need more room to come to a complete stop. These simple steps might just save someone's life.