California is home to thousands of accidents involving large trucks and commercial vehicles each year. The causes vary, but the most frequent danger that results in big rigs and single unit box trucks getting in accidents is an inability to stop quickly. Even a commercial truck that isn’t speeding can present a massive threat if required to quickly apply the brakes. It takes a large truck nearly twice the distance it takes a car to stop while driving at 65 mph.
Driver error, impairment, negligence, poor truck maintenance, overloading, and other factors escalate the danger posed by massive trucks on crowded roadways. Each of those factors brings the crash back to one common cause: massive trucks cannot stop quickly.
The Devastating Effects of Truck Accidents
When a large commercial vehicle and a common passenger car collide, the results are far more likely to be fatal than when two cars collide. It comes as no surprise that two-thirds of the fatalities caused by large truck accidents are suffered by the occupants of the other vehicle.
Excessive speed makes a truck the most dangerous because of the quantifiable difference in how long a truck takes to stop. Excessive speed doesn’t always mean the driver of the truck was speeding in the sense of being over the speed limit. Road conditions, traffic patterns, and weather all can turn a truck traveling at a relatively low rate of speed into a significant hazard.
The sheer weight of a large truck paired with its relative elevation compared to a low-lying car can turn even a low-speed collision into a deadly event.
Other common issues presented by the driver of the truck besides unsafe speeds that contribute to terrible truck accidents include:
- Driver Distractions – Driving for hours on end can lead to a sense of malaise and the temptation to break through the miles of boredom with phone calls, texts, or scanning the radio dial. Any of these activities in motion is a drastic multiplier for the odds of an accident.
- Drowsiness – Technology has helped enforcement of mandatory rest periods for drivers. It has long been known that long hours behind the wheel are taxing and can lead to drowsiness or even exhaustion. Drivers operating on tight deadlines and lean margins to cover ground and complete deliveries still may have a temptation to push through as their alertness dwindles, heightening the danger for themselves and everyone on the road.
- Bad Habits – Unfortunately, over many years of driving, many of us let our hands slip from “10 and 2” on the wheel to “9 and 3” or anxiously change lanes seeking a faster traffic flow. These seem like relatively innocuous bad habits, but even in a car could be dangerous. Consider a long-haul trucker powering through millions of miles over the course of their career. Changing lanes, not thoroughly checking blind spots, and following too closely are dangerous driving behaviors car drivers should avoid, but truck drivers absolutely need to steer clear of.
- Stimulant-induced DUI – An inebriated driver weaving in and out of traffic and drifting to the shoulders is easy for any road patrol officer to spot. Spotting the signs of a large-scale truck being operated by a driver on excessive legal stimulants or some amount of illegal substance to push themselves through extra miles is much more difficult. Artificially averting a desire for sleep with any type of chemical aid is a risky practice in a massive vehicle.
- Driver Inexperience – The U.S. has faced well-documented supply chain shortages with the extenuating circumstance of an issue filling truck-driving jobs. Many states have escalated the resources available to get drivers through commercial driver’s license (CDL) training, but that doesn’t mean they will immediately be assigned routes befitting their lack of experience by trucking companies. There is no substitute for road miles for developing judgment and confidence in navigating large commercial loads.
Issues with the truck itself can also be the cause of a serious accident. The driver and the trucking company are responsible for making sure the truck is in safe working order before taking to the road.
- Maintenance Oversites – If you’ve ever had a tire blow on the road in a four-wheel vehicle, it can be a harrowing experience. An 18-wheeler with diminishing tread on any of its tires is an unnecessary risk. Frequent brake inspections are essential as well to ensure safe operations.
- Cargo Shifting – A commercial vehicle overloaded on one side is at significant risk of suffering a rollover. Loading and unloading a truck can’t be a haphazard process at this scale. Tight packing and proper use of restraints to prevent the weight from shifting drastically to one side can be critical. A rollover accident is likely to be accompanied by trailer spillage, creating a wide range of road hazards for other vehicles.
- Overweight Vehicles – Weigh-stations for trucks on the side of the highway are something you probably breeze by without a second thought. To safely operate a large truck on highways or narrow city streets, they are critical. Excessive weight is a threat to both the truck and its ability to operate to its potential, as well as the long-term damage to the roadways the weighed-down truck drives on.
What To do if You Are in a Truck Accident
It is imperative that you first and foremost make sure your health and your safety are taken care of. You have already survived a possible disaster and are likely injured, even if the extent of the pain has not set in yet.
Contact law enforcement and also document as much evidence as you can yourself. Get as much information about the truck and the company operating it as possible while still looking out for your own personal safety.
Do not admit fault or give a statement to insurance company representatives. An attorney is your right under California law. An insurance company cannot refuse to pay up later because you wouldn’t speak without your attorney. This is merely an intimidation tactic.
Hire an Experienced Sacramento Truck Accident Attorney
Guenard and Bozarth, LLP have extracted massive settlements and verdicts from trucking companies that didn’t live up to their legal obligations to keep our roads safe. If you or a loved one have suffered as the result of a trucking accident, contact us today.