Large truck crashes happen due to an assortment of factors, including those related to the truck driver, the vehicle and the environment. Truck drivers may be unfamiliar with the road, the brakes may have failed on the large truck, and the traffic flow interrupted due to congestion.
These crashes are difficult to forget, potentially leading to serious and fatal injuries, hours of clean up along with rerouted traffic. Such scenarios make us wonder just how much of the blame may be attributed to truck drivers.
Prescription drug use, driving too fast for conditions
A few years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) – an agency with the U.S. Department of Transportation – performed a study. The FMCSA reviewed the estimated 120,000 fatal and injurious crashes involving large trucks that occurred during the 33-month period from April 2001 to December 2003.
The top 10 driver-related factors that led to large truck collisions in descending order were:
- Prescription drug use: These may be used for ailments such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anxiety and depression.
- Driving too fast for conditions: Slick roads from rain, sleet and snow may lead to skidding and hydroplaning.
- Unfamiliarity with the road: Drivers travel many routes, some of which are unfamiliar. This may be the case among newly trained drivers.
- Over-the-counter drug use: Sleep aids, diet pills, sedatives and decongestants may potentially affect a driver’s ability to control the vehicle.
- Inadequate surveillance: Truck drivers have many blind spots, and they must be aware of them.
- Fatigue: Driving long hours with few breaks may lead to drowsy driving and fatigue.
- Under work-related pressure: Deadline pressure may lead to stress, and anxiety to get to a destination on time.
- Illegal maneuver: Examples may include making U-turns in prohibited areas, illegal passing, turning from the wrong lane and traveling in the wrong direction.
- Inattention: Distracted driving may be due to phone usage, texting, eating and reading maps.
- External distraction factors: The list may include crashes, vehicles at the side of roads, billboards and flashing lights.
The study determined that large truck collisions caused by driver use of illegal drugs and alcohol along with driver illness were rare.
Also, while prescription drug use represented the top driver-related factor in large truck crashes, it actually ranked third overall. The top reason for truck crashes was brake failure, considered a vehicle-related factor. Ranking second was traffic flow interruption – an environmental factor — such as road congestion during peak travel hours.
Keep alert and maintain your distance
All drivers must remain alert when sharing the road with a tractor-trailer that weighs several tons. Keep your distance, stay out of the truck driver’s blind spots and continue to have safe travels.