Understanding the top risk factors for preventable large truck crashes

Various actions on the part of truckers can raise the risk of crashes, including inattention, illegal maneuvers, close following and improper load securing.

When large truck crashes occur in Atlanta, the consequences for other drivers are often serious or catastrophic. In 2012, over one-tenth of all traffic deaths reported in Georgia resulted from crashes involving large trucks, according to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety. Sadly, while some truck crashes may involve unforeseeable circumstances, many more may occur due to the actions of truck drivers. As a result, it's crucial for other motorists to be familiar with the factors that can make these accidents more likely.

Load shifting

The freight that trucks transport can contribute to accidents in various ways if it isn't properly secured. Truckers may experience loss of control when a load of cargo shifts unexpectedly. Poorly secured freight can also fall off trucks, striking other vehicles or creating a roadway hazard. According to a study of over 141,000 large truck crashes that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration commissioned, cargo load shifts represent the top risk factor for accidents in which truckers are deemed at fault.

Legal violations

Many commercial vehicle accidents occur when truckers make illegal maneuvers, such as turning or passing where doing so is prohibited. These maneuvers were the fifth most common driver-related cause of accidents in the FMCSA study, playing a role in 9 percent of all crashes. Illegal maneuvers also were more likely to be deemed the critical reason for an accident than all but two other factors.

Inadequate following distance

There are various reasons that accidents are more likely to occur when trucks follow other vehicles too closely. Trucks may outweigh cars by up to 30 times, so they require a much greater stopping distance, as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety explains. Brake issues are also a known contributing factor in truck crashes. According to the IIHS, inclement weather and poor brake maintenance can cause trucks to have dangerously decreased braking capability. A short following distance can increase the risk that brake problems will result in a rear-end collision.

In the FMCSA study, inadequate following distance was the fourth most serious risk factor for crashes in which truckers were found at fault. About one out of 20 of the observed accidents occurred at least in part because truckers failed to maintain a reasonable following distance.

Driver distraction

The exact number of truck accidents that involve driver distraction is uncertain, since this factor is difficult to conclusively prove after a crash. However, inattention was a factor in 8 percent of the truck crashes that were analyzed in the FMCSA study. Distractions inside and outside of the vehicle, which were listed as separate factors, contributed to another 10 percent of the observed accidents.

FMCSA rules now prohibit truckers from texting, which can raise the risk of an accident 23 times, or using handheld phones for other purposes. Violations can result in fines and driver disqualification. However, due to the availability of other distractions and the potential for violations of this regulation, inattention may still remain a common cause of accidents.

Identifying negligence in accidents

People who have been hurt in truck crashes in Georgia should understand that they might have legal recourse if these factors or other preventable issues caused the accident. Trucking companies or drivers may be found liable if they have broken traffic laws, violated federal regulations or failed to show proper care to other road users. Victims may benefit from meeting with a personal injury attorney for further information regarding their rights and means of pursuing recourse.