Each day, Californians take to the roads alongside some of the biggest and most dangerous vehicles in the world. According to some estimates, more than two million tractor-trailers are on American roads every year, contributing to over 500,000 accidents. These accidents are to blame for thousands of catastrophic injuries and deaths. Whether it’s shifting and falling cargo, a sleepy driver, or improperly maintained trucks, many of these accidents are the result of negligence.
What Makes Tractor Trailers so Dangerous?
Tractor-trailers play an essential role in the American economy, as they transport nearly 70 percent of the products you use and purchase at your local stores. There are nearly two million active semi-trucks and 5.6 million tractor-trailers in the country. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported that there were around 107,000 injury crashes involving large trucks in the United States. However, these vehicles impose severe safety risks on everyone who shares the road with them.
Here are some of the inherent factors that make these trucks so dangerous:
- Size: A tractor-trailer carrying a full load can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Not only are they heavy, but they are also tall with a lot of space between them and the ground.
- Poor braking capabilities: When a vehicle is as big as a commercial truck, brakes can only do so much. It takes big rigs 40 percent more time and distance to stop than what is required for a passenger vehicle to come to a complete stop.
- Blind spots: Blind spots can be an issue for a vehicle of any size, but they are a significant problem for semi-trucks. Typically, these commercial vehicles are about 53 feet long with a single trailer, though some pull more than one. This equates to large blind spots directly in front, behind, and to the left, but especially the right.
- High center of gravity: Not only do tractor-trailers have more weight and height, but they also have a higher center of gravity, which increases the chance of a rollover accident. These types of accidents are particularly deadly for other drivers on the roadway, especially in heavy traffic.
- Frequent maintenance: These big rigs require frequent and vigilant maintenance because of their size and the distances they travel. It is common for these trucks to experience malfunctions with the brakes, tires, steering, and other vital parts of the truck. Ignoring maintenance requirements increases the risk of an accident.
- Shifting or otherwise improperly loaded cargo: Thousands of pounds of cargo can be loaded on a big rig at one time. If it is not loaded correctly and securely, it will shift during transport. When this happens, the big rig is more difficult to control and faces an increased risk of jackknifing or rolling over.
- Dangerous cargo: Sometimes, semi-trucks are used to transport hazardous materials such as chemicals that can spill if there is an accident. These chemicals and other materials pose a health and safety risk to other drivers as well as environmental concerns to the public.
- Slow start: Not only are tractor-trailers difficult to stop, taking more time and distance, but they are also slower to get up to speed to keep up with traffic thanks to their weight and larger size. This can be particularly problematic when big rigs are merging onto the highway or interstate. If the truck driver underestimates the time they need to accelerate or the speed the other vehicles on the roadway are traveling, they are at a higher risk for being rear-ended by another vehicle.
Truck Driver Negligence
Not only are tractor-trailers inherently dangerous, but their drivers are also sometimes negligent in their actions, which increases the risk of an accident even more. People who drive these commercial vehicles need to take extra precautions to drive their vehicles safely.
They may be at-fault for an accident if they are:
- Under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident
- Not adhering to federal safety standards when it comes to the amount of driving they can do within a set time period and the amount of rest they must get
- Driving while sleepy or fatigued
- Driving distracted by a cell phone, food, a pet in the cab or by other means
- Driving too fast or otherwise carelessly for lousy road or weather conditions
- Failing to maintain their vehicles and provide safety inspections per federal safety standards
- Speeding, which is far too common as truck drivers have deadlines to meet
- Under the influence of stimulants (even those that are legal and over-the-counter) to stay awake as these can mask the symptoms of driver fatigue and make them unaware of when they need to stop and have a break
- Lacking emotional control—fatigue can cause emotions run higher than usual making a driver less likely to make sound decisions using good judgment and more likely to make poor decisions based on their emotions
After Your Tractor-Trailer Accident
When a big rig accident occurs any related legal action can be extremely complicated. Since tractor-trailers are usually engaged in interstate trade, a complex web of state and federal laws govern them. Sifting through all of these issues and how they apply to your individual incident requires the attention of a skilled truck accident attorney. It can also be challenging to ascertain who is liable for your truck accident, which is necessary if you intend to seek compensation.
Keep in mind that trucking companies have their own attorneys on their side whose goal is paying you as little as possible. They will begin work immediately to mitigate the damages caused to their company by your claim for damages. The sooner you can reach out to a lawyer who has experience handling tractor-trailer cases like yours, the better chance you could have at receiving justice in your case. By reaching out to a skilled commercial truck accident attorney, you can receive answers to your questions and advice on the next steps you should take.
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