Causes of Head-On Truck Collisions Bohn & Fletcher, LLP

Recently, several news outlets released dashcam footage of a severe semi-truck collision. In this particular crash, the semi-truck driver bumped into a passenger vehicle, causing it to veer into oncoming traffic. It then struck a van carrying a church group from Louisiana to Disney World head-on. As a result of the crash, five children, the semi-truck driver, and another truck driver all lost their lives.

Footage of this accident helped the National Transportation Safety Board investigate the cause of the crash. The at-fault truck driver was working as a contracted postal carrier when the crash occurred, and his employer claims he suffered a health issue that caused the crash. However, proof of this contention has not been provided.

No matter how they occur, head-on collisions are among the most deadly types of motor vehicle accidents, as the forces they place on vehicle occupants can cause extremely serious injuries. Considering that a semi-truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and a passenger car weighs 4,000 or less, the results of a head-on collision between these two types of vehicles are usually disastrous.

The Frequency of Head-On Truck Collisions

Also referred to as frontal impact collisions, head-on crashes contribute to only about three percent of all large truck crashes annually, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. When compared with other types of crashes, your chances of getting into a head-on collision with a big rig are quite low, but when they do happen, they are serious. For instance, rear-end collisions with big rigs account for about 25 percent of all truck accidents each year.

What Causes Head-On Truck Collisions?

If you were involved in a head-on truck collision, you might be asking yourself questions such as:

  • Didn’t the truck driver see another vehicle heading their way?
  • Why didn’t they get out of the other vehicle’s way?
  • Why didn’t they stop before they collided?

Head-on collisions tend to share several common underlying factors. The risk of these types of accidents is higher on rural or narrow roadways. It is on these roads where vehicles temporarily pass one another in the lane designated for traffic in the opposing direction. Accidents of all types happen for many reasons, and the same rings true for head-on truck collisions. While some are unique to head-on crashes, others are factors in other types of accidents as well.

Take a look at some of these common reasons trucks are involved in head-on collisions:

  • Medical issues: Drivers can have known or unknown medical issues such as heart problems, diabetes, seizures, or syncope (passing out).
  • Driver fatigue: Truck drivers are especially at risk for the effects of fatigue or even falling asleep at the wheel. Nighttime increases the risk of accidents, as the body’s instinct is to fall asleep at night.
  • Driving while under the influence: Whether i’ts alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal substances, a truck driver under the influence puts others on the road at risk as they are more likely to leave their assigned lane of travel.
  • Driver confusion: There are times when drivers become confused, and they may drive on the wrong side of the road, drive up off-ramps, or make other similar maneuvers.
  • Speeding: Speed is always a contributing factor to the severity of crashes. However, speeding is especially concerning on rural and winding roadways as speed makes it difficult for large trucks to stay in their lanes. In addition, high speeds reduce the amount of time that drivers have to avoid collisions on busy city streets and highways.
  • Passing in a no-passing zone: If you remember from your driver’s education, passing on a two-lane rural road is only allowed when there is a broken line. If the line is solid, it is illegal and not safe to pass. If drivers forget or intentionally ignore passing rules, the risk of a head-on collision increases.
  • Poor weather or road conditions: Whether it is rain, fog, snow, or another weather event, poor weather conditions can make it difficult for drivers to see lane markings and oncoming traffic.
  • Swerving: Sometimes, drivers suddenly maneuver trucks to avoid hitting something else, such as an animal, person, another vehicle, or debris.
  • Driver distraction: it could be a cell phone, reaching for something in the vehicle, eating while driving, or even adjusting the radio station. Driver distraction significantly increases the risk of any type of accident, including head-on collisions.
  • Losing control of the vehicle: it could be a tire blowout, which big rigs are prone to, or even a vehicle malfunction. If the driver is not in control of a vehicle, anything can happen.
  • Construction zones: although necessary, construction zones can be confusing to drivers, especially if there is altered lane alignment, which increases the risk of hitting another vehicle head-on.
  • Multicar pileups: In a pileup involving many vehicles, it is not uncommon for vehicles to be pushed into opposite lanes of traffic, placing them in a dangerous position for a head-on crash.

Nearly all of these situations involve a vehicle leaving its own lane of travel for one reason or another. This is a hallmark factor for head-on collisions.

Who Is to Blame?

In a significant percentage of head-on truck collisions, the negligence of the truck driver is at least partly to blame for the accident. Although some of these circumstances are largely out of the control of the driver, the driver still has the responsibility to take steps to mitigate them.

For example, if road conditions are adverse, they should slow their speed accordingly or even get off the road. If a truck driver suspects there is a problem with a vehicle or their tire, they need to get it checked out. If the driver is fatigued and not well-rested, they need to pull over and participate in self-care instead of forging ahead to meet a deadline.

A head-on truck collision has the potential to significantly impact your life in many negative ways. If you or someone you love was involved in a head-on collision with a semi-truck, an experienced lawyer can answer your questions and advise you about your legal options.

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