Trucks and Rear-End Collisions: What You Don't Know Could Hurt You
Rear-end collisions are some of the most deadly which can occur on the road. Understanding how to prevent them is critical.
July 05, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- A Special Investigative Report by the National Transportation Safety Board calls for an increase in installation of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), in order to help prevent rear-end collisions. The report addresses both commercial trucks and passenger vehicle manufacturers, and it advises that they install ITS technology in their vehicles. The investigation has determined that various forms of ITS may prevent rear-end collisions by alerting drivers to slowed or stopped traffic ahead.
The study was catalyzed by the massive number of deaths on the nation's highways in 1999, the most recent year for which data was available at the time of the investigation. Over 41,000 deaths were reported nationwide, including 1,400 from Illinois. These fatalities resulted from more than 6 million crashes throughout the United States, and a large portion of those were related to rear-end collisions.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has determined that commercial trucks are responsible for an average of 400,000 truck accidents every year. Nearly 20 percent of these crashes are rear-end collisions.
Although commercial truck drivers are professionals and often practice safe driving practices, the fact remains that large trucks are involved in more crashes than passenger vehicles, according to research provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. As a result, the Safety Board focused on the use of technologies and other tools that may be used to decrease rear-end collisions involving commercial vehicles.
Rear-End Collisions and Commercial Trucks: Causes and Liability
Commercial trucks are very large and are often more than 40 times the size of other vehicles on the nation's roadways. Because of this weight discrepancy, they are less maneuverable, slower to start and take longer to stop than passenger vehicles. This combination can lead to catastrophic damage if a collision occurs.
There are two types of rear-end collisions involving these massive trucks. The first, and more common, occurs when a commercial truck strikes a passenger vehicle. The second, and often more deadly, happens when a passenger vehicle strikes a commercial truck.
Rear-end collisions caused by commercial trucks are often the direct or indirect result of faulty brakes. A study released by the FMCSA found that trucks involved in these accidents are twice as likely as other vehicles to have defective or poorly adjusted brakes.
Fatigue or a lack of attention was is also often a contributing factor to accidents in these situations. This danger occurs most often on interstates, when drivers traverse long stretches of road without many turns, stops or intersections. As a result, the drivers are more likely to relax their vigilance, thus reducing the drivers' ability to promptly respond to slowed or stopped vehicles.
The second type of rear-end collision, a passenger car striking a commercial truck, can be caused by poor lighting conditions and is almost twice as likely to occur at night. The same FMCSA study found that commercial trucks struck by passenger vehicles are often in violation of lighting regulations. This may make trucks more difficult to see and respond to safely.
This type of accident has a higher fatality rate because of a phenomenon known as truck underride. A truck underride crash occurs when a passenger vehicles goes partially or wholly under the truck or trailer. Since the passenger vehicle's point of impact is not at the car's bumper, those inside the vehicle are less likely to receive the protections offered by both the bumper and the car's frame. This vulnerability greatly increases the likelihood of death or serious injury to occupants of the vehicle.
In many situations, a commercial truck driver or the commercial trucking company which employs the trucker may be held liable for injuries caused in these accidents. If the truck driver was negligent in operating the vehicle, the driver may be directly liable. However, the company may also often be held responsible for injuries that result from accidents. Some examples which contribute to carrier liability include:
- Lighting violations
- Work hour violations
- Failure to enforce policies regarding use of handheld cellphone for voice or texting purposes
- Rear-impact guard violations
These are just a few of the many situations that result in truck driver or commercial truck company liability. If the government moves forward with ITS requirements, as the Safety Board's investigation suggests it might, additional duties would be imposed on carriers.
If you or a loved one is involved in a truck accident, compensation may be available to cover medical and rehabilitative expenses as well as pain and suffering. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your unique situation and better protect your legal rights and remedies.
Article provided by Clancy Law
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