Heavy trucks are some of the biggest dangers on the road. The weight differential between most semi-trucks and passenger vehicles makes any accident a scary thought. Truck accidents are too common in Pennsylvania and across the United States. There are different causes and contributing factors to these accidents, and reviewing some truck accident statistics can teach us common characteristics, dangers and risk factors.
Injuries and Fatalities in Truck Accidents
In 2012, there were 5,891 heavy truck crashes in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Of these accidents, 2,734 involved injuries and 143 were fatal. The years 2010 and 2011 each saw 145 deaths involving heavy trucks. Of the 143 fatal crashes in 2012, 20 were occupants of the heavy truck while the others were presumably occupants of other vehicles, or were not occupants of any vehicle.
Across the nation, there were 3,781 deaths in crashes involving heavy trucks and around 104,000 injury crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Of those killed, 640 (17%) were occupants of the large truck. 2,713 (72%) were occupants of other vehicles and 428 (11%) were non-occupants like pedestrians or bicyclists.
Location and Time of Truck Accidents
Of the truck accidents in Pennsylvania in 2012, 1,484 (25.2 percent) occurred on interstates while 3,400 (57.7 percent) happened on other state highways. There were 438 (7.4 percent) that occurred on a turnpike. Thus, a majority of these accidents occur on a highway. Only 586 (9.6%) of the accidents occurred on local roads.
Further, according to the NHTSA, 63% of truck accidents in the U.S. occurred in rural areas, compared to 37% in urban areas. Sixty-four percent occurred during the day compared to 36 percent at night, and 78 percent occurred on weekdays compared to 22% on weekends.
Truck Accident Causes and Associated Factors
Defective parts were a major factor in truck accidents in Pennsylvania. Below is the number of accidents related to the type of vehicle defect:
- tire/wheel: 112 accidents;
- brakes: 91 accidents;
- power train failure: 39 accidents; and
- unsecured trailer: 30 accidents.
Alcohol might be a contributing factor to large truck accidents as well. The NHTSA report notes that just two percent of large truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. These percentages were higher for drivers of passenger cars (23%), light trucks (22%), and motorcyclists (27%).
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) examined associated factors of truck accidents, described as factors present at the time of crash, not necessarily indicating causation. It found the top six associated driver-related factors (trucker or other driver) were:
- prescription drug use – 26.3% of accidents;
- traveling too fast for conditions – 22.9%;
- unfamiliar with roadway – 21.6%;
- over-the-counter drug use – 17.3%;
- inadequate surveillance – 13.2%; and
- fatigue – 13.0%.
Other contributing factors may be related to hazardous materials the truck is carrying. In fact, there were 155 truck accidents involving trucks carrying hazardous materials in Pennsylvania in 2012. In 26 of those accidents, the hazardous material was released.
Legal Options after a Truck Accident
Those involved in truck accidents should contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident. A lawyer can help collect evidence to determine and establish what caused the accident. This might include onboard recording device records, the driver’s log books, GPS records, inspection and maintenance records, and even the truck itself. An attorney can send a spoliation letter to trucking companies to stop the destruction of this evidence.