Coping with Increasing Risk of Trucking Accidents: Why Bigger Big-Rigs Is a Bad Idea
While more expansive regulation of the trucking industry had led to declines in trucking accidents in recent years, the number of collisions involving semi-trucks has begun to creep in the other direction. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that the number of big-rig crashes increased by over eleven percent during a recent two year period. During a recent one year period, the agency reports that 3,757 people died in crashes involving large trucks. The American Association for Justice (AAJ) reports that semi-trucks comprise only 4.7 percent of the passenger vehicles on U.S. roadways, but they account for 12.4 percent of fatal motor vehicle collisions. Further, fatalities are 17 percent higher for large trucks based on a miles driven basis.
Because the trucking industry relies on a compensation plan that is based on the number of miles driven, commercial drivers have an incentive to defer necessary maintenance, ignore hours of service rules and drive at unsafe speeds. Although regulators have attempted to mitigate these risks be increasing the number of inspections since a devastating tractor-trailer crash in Oklahoma several years ago, there are simply not enough resources and inspectors to adequately monitor compliance with trucking regulations and prudent industry practices.
The fatal Oklahoma crash is indicative of the problem. A 76-year-old commercial driver caused the death of ten people when his 40,000 pound big-rig plowed into several other vehicles that had slowed because of a minor accident. The driver was operating the semi-truck despite having only slept five hours prior to taking to the road at 3 a.m. He had been behind the wheel ten hours when he crashed. He was so fatigued, he did not even apply the brakes before slamming into the other vehicles.
When horrific trucking collisions occur, crash victims who suffer permanent life-altering injuries and fatalities are typically occupants of the other motor vehicle. In fatal crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck, the party that dies is an occupant of the passenger vehicle 97 percent of the time according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). The risk to other motorists could soon increase as the trucking industry continues to lobby for longer and heavier trucks. For example, governors in several states have lobbied for more multiple trailers hitched together. A "triple" can reach 120 feet in length which would exceed the length of a Boeing 737 and exceed the weight of the average passenger car by twenty times. Many states currently ban "doubles" which are two or three times more likely to be involved in a crash than ordinary semi-trucks. These proposals for longer and heavier trucks could mean even greater increases in trucking fatalities because the trucks will be more prone to tip over or sway into adjacent lanes. Larger and heavier trucks also require greater stopping distances.
If you or your loved one is injured in a trucking accident in Georgia, make sure you know your legal rights! Contact our experienced truck accident attorneys for your free consultation.
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