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Birdseye view of truck on great plains highway

Top Causes of Highway Truck Crashes

Truck crashes are common. With about 415,000 truck accidents causing property damage or severe injury each year, drivers must remain vigilant and aware of the dangers on the highway. With that in mind, here are some of the top causes of highway truck crashes every driver should watch for next time they find themselves behind a semi-truck.

Improper Merging From a Smaller Vehicle

Most drivers don’t realize that truck drivers have enormous blind spots surrounding their vehicles. Without special equipment like extra mirrors or cameras, a truck driver is unable to see anything to their immediate front or rear. If a car or a motorcycle passes a truck and then immediately changes lanes without providing a few extra car lengths, the truck driver may not even realize that the smaller vehicle is there.

This is especially problematic if a driver is directly in front of a truck and then hits the brakes, not realizing they’re in the truck’s blind spots. The truck driver won’t be able to see the smaller vehicle’s brake lights, making it extremely difficult for them to avoid a crash due to the size and weight of their vehicle.

Trucks Changing Lanes

Just as troubling as smaller vehicles with poor merging technique are truck drivers who aren’t cognizant of their blind spots when they change lanes. If a truck driver doesn’t verify there’s nothing in their blind spot before changing lanes, a smaller vehicle beside them may be unable to get out of their way.

If the smaller vehicle speeds ahead, it could potentially be struck by the front of the truck. Even if the driver hits the brakes, the speed difference may not be enough to get behind the truck’s trailer.

This is especially difficult if a truck doesn’t have turn signals on the side of their trailer, as the driver of a smaller vehicle may not realize the truck has their turn signal on until they see them crossing lanes.

Truck Driver Falling Asleep

A long-haul truck driver can operate their vehicle for 10 hours in a single session or 14 hours in a 24-hour cycle. While these regulations are meant to reduce driver fatigue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has found that these rules are often violated. In some cases, drivers cite pressure from management and the stress of delivery quotas as a key contributing factor for driving while fatigued as well as other stress-related health issues.

While it’s unclear exactly how many truck crashes are caused by fatigue, one study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) suggests that upwards of 380,000 motor vehicle crashes (about 1-in-17 of all U.S. car crashes) are caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

Jacknife Crashes

A jacknife crash can occur when a truck driver slams on the brakes, when a truck slides on wet roads, and, occasionally, by maintenance issues. When the truck skids, the trailer continues pushing forward. This can cause the trailer to swing alongside the truck at an acute angle. That has the potential to swipe across lanes and endanger everyone around the truck.

Jacknife crashes are especially dangerous when the truck is empty, or the load isn’t properly distributed. If the driver cannot quickly regain control of the vehicle, they are at risk of pivoting sideways and potentially causing a rollover.

Preventing a Crash

Next time you approach a truck on the highway, remain vigilant of the dangers. Make sure the truck driver can see you when you change lanes, watch out for slippery roads, and if you sense the truck driver isn’t in full control of their vehicle, put as much space between you and them as possible.

If you’d like to discuss the impact of your crash with an experienced truck accident attorney, don’t hesitate to call upon Maring Williams Law Office. Our firm serves injured parties across North Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana. Send us an email or call us today at (701) 402-6644 for a free consultation.