Young & McCarthy LLP

NHTSA and FMCSA study worrying rise in truck accidents

About 70 percent of the goods purchased in Ohio and around the country each year are transported by more than 15 million large commercial vehicles. This is a worrying statistic for road safety advocates because truck accidents have risen by 20 percent in just the last 10 years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration analyzed traffic accident data to understand better what was responsible for this worrying increase, and they discovered that most semi-tractor trailer accidents were caused by truck drivers.

The Large Truck Crash Causation Study was based on information gathered at the scenes of 120,000 tractor-trailer accidents over about three years. Almost 75,000 of these crashes involved at least one other vehicle, and the truck driver was determined to be at fault in about 68,000 of them.

About 30,000 of the truck accidents studied were caused by poor truck driver decisions, such as exceeding posted speed limits or misjudging the speed of other vehicles. A further 22,000 accidents were put down to truck driver distraction, and 9,000 occurred because truck drivers fell asleep at the wheel or suffered some sort of medical emergency. Only 7,000 of the accidents were caused by alert, vigilant and careful truck drivers who made performance errors such as panicking or overcompensating in an emergency situation.

The NHTSA and the FMCSA likely had reliable information upon which to base their study as serious truck accidents tend to be investigated thoroughly by law enforcement. The reports accident investigators produce may also provide experienced personal injury attorneys with information that could be used to establish reckless or negligent behavior in truck accident lawsuits. Such evidence may be enough to convince a jury even when prosecutors have declined to file charges. This is because the standard of proof in civil court is not as strict as it is in a criminal trial.

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