150+ 5 Star Google Reviews

Common Causes of Truck Accidents and How to Avoid Them

Truck accidents happen more often than you might think in Butler County and across Ohio. There are many common causes of truck accidents that you may not be aware of. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), about 107,000 large trucks are involved in collisions each year. Of those trucks involved in crashes, there are more than 4,800 fatalities. Large trucks, which include semis and 18-wheelers, weigh significantly more than passenger vehicles. The Ohio Department of Public Safety points out that about one out of every eight traffic deaths in the state results from a crash involving a large truck. Big rigs and other large trucks only make up 3% of all registered vehicles. However, they are involved in 9% of all deadly crashes. Large trucks are also involved in 4% of nonfatal collisions and damage-only accidents in Ohio. Truck accidents have many different causes. Accordingly, multiple parties may be at fault for crashes. In some cases, it may be possible to file a claim against two or more parties.

What are the common causes of truck accidents? How can you avoid them? The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) regularly conducts a large truck crash causation study. Data from that study can help to reveal common causes of truck accidents and how to avoid them.

Drowsy or Fatigued Driving

Among truck drivers, drowsy or fatigued driving is one of the most common causes of truck accidents. To prevent drowsy driving crashes, the FMCSA has specific hours of service (HOS) regulations for truckers. Under those HOS regulations, any driver of a commercial motor vehicle that meets specific descriptors must be in compliance. Essentially, most semi-truck and large truck drivers are required to abide by the regulations. The specific regulations depend upon whether the truck driver is carrying property or passengers. Here are some of the regulations:

  • Property-carrying drivers have an 11-hour maximum driving limit and must take 10 consecutive hours off duty;
  • Passenger-carrying drivers can drive for a maximum of 10 hours following eight consecutive hours off duty;
  • Drivers carrying property must take a 30-minute break for every eight consecutive hours driven; and
  • Both types of drivers can extend their driving limits by two hours when there are adverse driving conditions.

Recently, the FMCSA made some changes and clarified certain rules and exceptions. First, drivers can accumulate the required consecutive off-duty time in multiple ways. They can combine actual off-duty time, sleeper berth time, and up to three hours of riding in the passenger seat. Drivers can also accumulate the required 30-minute break time with 10 minutes of off-duty time and 20 minutes of not driving. If a driver violates the HOS regulations, that may be evidence of drowsy driving.

Even if truckers abide by the FMCSA HOS regulations, they can still be too tired to drive. Indeed, a truck driver can still be responsible for a crash due to drowsy driving even if they have complied with the HOS regulations. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowsy driving can sometimes be as dangerous as drunk driving. The CDC cites the following as common signs of fatigued driving:

  • Yawning;
  • Frequent blinking;
  • Missing an exit;
  • Drifting into another lane; or
  • Driving on the rumble strip.

Speeding and Other Forms of Aggressive Driving

When it comes to truck accidents, speeding is a common cause. The NSC reports that speeding is a “major factor in traffic deaths and injuries.” In fact, speeding accounts for nearly one-third of all deadly traffic collisions. Both speeding truck drivers and speeding motorists can cause trucking accidents in Ohio.

Intoxicated Driving

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a leading cause of serious and deadly truck accidents in Ohio and throughout the country. Both truck drivers and other motorists can cause severe truck crashes due to intoxicated driving. For regular motorists, Ohio law says that a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher is unlawful. That BAC indicates drunk driving. For large truck drivers with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), the legal limit is lower. Under Ohio law, a truck driver is considered to be driving under the influence with a BAC of 0.05 or higher. Yet even if a truck driver does not have a BAC at or above the legal limit, the trucker can still be intoxicated. Smaller amounts of alcohol can still lead to intoxication. Other motorists in cars and light trucks can also cause collisions with large trucks due to intoxication.

It is also important to know that intoxicated driving can involve substances other than alcohol. To be clear, drinking alcohol can certainly cause serious and deadly truck crashes. Yet other substances can also cause intoxicated driving crashes. The use of unlawful controlled substances can cause intoxicated driving crashes. In some cases, even the use of prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines can be responsible for intoxicated driving crashes. Truck drivers or other motorists who use alcohol, controlled substances, or even lawful prescription or over-the-counter drugs can cause accidents.

Defective Truck Parts

Sometimes defects in the truck or one of its components can cause crashes. For example, defective tires, brakes, or steering can lead to a devastating wreck. Tire blowouts are common causes of trucking crashes, and they can result from defects in the tires. When defects cause crashes, it may be possible to hold the designer, manufacturer, or retailer accountable.

Negligent Mechanic Work

Owners of large trucks have a responsibility to ensure that they are properly maintained. However, even the most fastidious maintenance routine may not prevent collisions if the mechanic negligently maintained the truck. Any negligent maintenance work can be responsible for a truck crash.

Distracted Driving

For truck and car drivers alike, distracted driving often causes serious and fatal collisions. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving kills more than 3,000 people annually. It is also possible that the number is an underestimate since distracted driving can be hard to track. You should know that many different types of distractions can result in trucking collisions in Butler County and throughout Ohio. The NHTSA clarifies that there are three major kinds of distractions. First, visual distractions involve acts that take a driver’s eyes off the road. Second, manual distractions involve tasks that take a driver’s hands off the wheel. Third, cognitive distractions are thoughts that take a driver’s mind off the task of driving.

There are many examples of actions or behaviors that fall into these categories of dangerous distractions. Common examples of driver behaviors that cause distracted truck crashes include:

  • Texting on a smartphone;
  • Talking on a handheld phone;
  • Reading articles or running an internet search on a smartphone;
  • Adjusting the music or radio;
  • Inputting information into a GPS;
  • Eating;
  • Grooming;
  • Reaching for an object in the passenger seat or another part of the vehicle;
  • Talking to a passenger;
  • Looking at something happening on the roadside; or
  • Thinking about an issue that prevents the driver from focusing on the road.

Improperly Loaded Trailer

Proper weight distribution in a tractor-trailer is essential to avoiding an accident. As such, improperly loaded trailers account for yet another of the common causes of truck accidents. When a trailer on an 18-wheeler is improperly loaded, many dangerous things can happen. First, and most significantly, cargo can shift. When cargo shifts, the truck can be at risk of jackknifing. What is jackknifing? It is a situation where the trailer on the semi-truck swings out and forms a V-shape or an L-shape with the tractor part of the truck. If this happens, the trailer can swing out and crash into other motor vehicles in adjacent lanes.

An improperly loaded trailer can also make it much more difficult for a trucker to stop. When a truck driver begins braking, they calculate braking distance based on a properly loaded trailer. If a trailer has uneven weight distribution, trucks can require more braking distance. Under these circumstances, a truck may crash into another vehicle in front of it.

In addition, improper loading can mean that a truck is more likely to tip over. The trucker can be seriously injured in an accident where this happens, as can other vehicle occupants in nearby lanes.

Poorly Maintained Roads

In some truck crashes, the cause of the collision is a poorly maintained road. The road might have uncleared debris, for example. Or, for instance, the road might have a dangerous pothole that has gone unrepaired for an extended time. Most roads and highways in Ohio are maintained by the government. Accordingly, the government may be liable for a truck crash caused by a poorly maintained road. Sometimes these types of accidents also happen in private parking lots. In those circumstances, the owner of the parking lot can be liable.

What You Can Do to Avoid a Truck Accident 

While some common causes of truck accidents are unavoidable, motorists on highways and local roads throughout Butler County can take steps to avoid a truck accident. Truck drivers can also take steps to avoid collisions. The following are some of the ways motorists can avoid a crash:

  • Only pass a large truck if you have a significant amount of room on the road;
  • When you do pass a large truck, do so as quickly as possible while remaining safe;
  • Never pass a truck in the blind spot of the truck driver, which means that you should only pass a large truck on the left (since the blind spot is significantly greater on the right side, or passenger side, of the truck), and you should remember that the truck driver can only see you if you can see the truck driver in the side mirror;
  • Know that inclement weather can make driving conditions significantly more hazardous for large trucks;
  • Drive predictably and always use turn signals when changing lanes;
  • Give trucks a wider space for turning;
  • Leave more space between your vehicle and a large truck when you are traveling behind the truck, giving yourself more time to be able to react to a sudden stop or traffic issue on the road; and
  • Follow all traffic rules and avoid dangerous driving behaviors like distracted or drunk driving.

Truck drivers can also do their part to avoid a serious or deadly crash. The following are some tips for semi-truck drivers in Ohio:

  • Follow all FMCSA hours of service restrictions and all other traffic rules;
  • Always get enough sleep before driving and pull over if you feel drowsy;
  • Avoid any kind of intoxicating substances, including medications or alcohol;
  • Know the truck you are driving and be aware of any possible safety issues;
  • Be sure to know what type of cargo you are hauling and what rules you must abide by in order to safely transport materials;
  • Stay focused behind the wheel, and if you need to read or send a text, stop at a rest stop or another area where it is safe for trucks to pull over;
  • Know that motorists may try to pass you on the right side, and be aware of blind spots;
  • Always keep an eye on your mirrors to identify motorists attempting to pass;
  • Drive your truck at a speed that never exceeds the posted speed limit, and recognize that lower speeds may be necessary for inclement weather;
  • Plan your route, accounting for low clearance areas, bridges, overpasses, or other areas that could complicate your time on the road;
  • Never pass motorists on the right;
  • Avoid traveling in the far left lane; and
  • Ensure that your truck has been properly maintained and is road ready.

Contact a Butler County Truck Accident Attorney

Truck accidents in Hamilton and throughout Butler County can have many different causes. The cause of a trucking collision will usually impact liability. Accordingly, it is important to work with a lawyer to determine causation and fault. At the law firm of Kruger & Hodges, our experienced Butler County trucking accident lawyers can assess your case today. We can work with you to determine the likely cause or causes of the truck accident in which you were injured. After determining causation, we can discuss issues of liability. While a truck driver is often at fault for a crash, one or more other parties could be liable. Our firm can identify likely defendants, and we can represent you throughout the claims process. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us to find out more about how we can assist you with a truck accident insurance claim or lawsuit. Contact the Law Firm of Kruger & Hodges online or reach us by phone at 513-894-3333.

Tell Us About Your Case

  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.