If you pass an 18-wheeler or other commercial truck on the highway and feel like you’ve made a narrow escape from a dangerous situation, you aren’t alone. We tend to view commercial trucks as hazardous and prone to accidents, in part because they take up a large amount of real estate on the road. Driving past a big rig carrying food to the grocery store feels a lot more intimidating than driving past an SUV carrying a family of four.
Truck-related deaths declined during The Great Recession, but now they’re on the rise again. Here’s what you need to know about truck accidents.
Safety regulations have loosened
In 2009, nearly 3,000 trucking accidents resulted in 3,380 deaths. That may sound high, but it actually represented an all-time low. By 2013, the number of deaths had risen to 3,964, an increase of more than 17 percent. The year after that, the number of deaths went down, but the amount of accidents and injuries went up.
Sleep apnea is a part of the problem here. In 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration suggested that overweight truck drivers should be tested for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea affects the quality of your sleep and makes it more likely that you’ll do things like fall asleep behind the wheel. The trucking industry got mad, and the proposal was withdrawn a week later. One study found that 28 percent of commercial truck drivers have some form of sleep apnea, but there’s no required testing mechanism in place. That means most drivers won’t get tested until after an accident occurs.
If you’re looking for someone to blame, you can start with trucking industry lobbyists. Safety regulations are good for other drivers on the road, but they’re not so good for the trucking industry’s bottom line. Because of that, regulations are constantly under attack by lobbyists who would rather make money in more dangerous conditions than make less money in safer conditions. The number of trucking companies filing for bankruptcy is also a source of tension for industry workers who fear their livelihoods are slipping away.
Driving in dangerous weather conditions
Truck drivers also face tremendous pressure to haul their load a certain number of miles in a day. If the weather is bad, some will feel the need to keep driving anyway and hope for the best. It’s no wonder that snowy states like North Dakota and Colorado have a higher than average rate of fatal trucking accidents. A whopping 8.8 percent of all road fatalities in North Dakota involve truck drivers.
18-wheelers already need more distance to stop. They need even more in snowy, rainy, or icy conditions. If they don’t have enough space for whatever reason, then crashes are much more likely to occur. At best, an 18-wheeler runs into a guardrail without involving any other cars. At worst, they crash into two or three other cars and kill someone.
Until trucking industry regulations improve, you’ll have to rely on other means if you’re ever involved in a trucking accident. Let’s say you get into an accident with an 18-wheeler on Interstate 10 in California. Police don’t arrest the trucker, even though you think he acted negligently. In that case, hiring a truck accident attorney California may be your best chance at getting some kind of justice. The idea of going up against a national trucking corporation is scary, but a good lawyer will help you prepare for the process. If the trucking industry is worried about losing money, then suing them for damages in civil court might be the best way to get their attention.