The 2015 report from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows the danger large trucks represent for other motorists. After a steady decline in the number of fatal accidents involving semis, there was a 2 percent increase in 2013, and an increase in the total number of accidents.
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The FMCSA attributes the rise in accidents to several factors, many of which fall squarely on the shoulders of drivers.
Causes Of Accidents
An investigation of the leading causes of trucking accidents revealed driver contributions to the frequency and severity of accidents in four circumstances.
Drug Use (26%)
Drug use was determined to be the most common cause of trucking accidents. Long hours on the road tempt drivers into using recreational drugs, like marijuana, because drivers assume the drugs will not affect their reaction time. Other drivers feel pressured to meet their mileage goals, despite limits on their drive time, and turn to illegal stimulants to keep themselves awake. A Chicago trucking accident lawyer pursuing a case against a driver with drugs in his or her system at the time of the accident has a strong case for driver negligence.
Over the counter drugs may also be a factor. Cough medicine, allergy pills, and pain medication can causes drowsiness, and slow a driver’s reaction time just long enough to turn a near miss into an accident. This is why the local and State police authorities always take a blood sample from the truck driver involved in such accidents and test the blood for toxicology content.
Short deadlines push truck drivers to their limits. Any unexpected delay place additional stress on the driver, and drivers look for ways to make up their lost time. Though the national speed limit for trucks is 65 mph, drivers far exceed the limit, especially at night or in rural areas.
A Chicago trucking accident lawyer can prove the speed of the truck at the time of the accident through scientific evidence. If the plaintiff can show clear evidence of a speeding violation, the trucker’s liability of the accident increases significantly. This is why our clients should call Cogan and Power as soon as possible after the collision so we can quickly schedule a professional download of the Electronic Control Module (ECM). The ECM is attached to the electronic controls of the truck cab and engine and can tabulate truck speed before braking and after braking, the time from braking to the collision and how much time the driver was on the brakes. This data does not lie and is very strong evidence in Court.
Road Conditions (22%)
Snow, ice, and rain all affect a driver’s ability to control a vehicle. In a passenger car, the effect might be minimal at normal road speeds; however, a semi truck is much harder to control in inclement weather conditions. Even if the truck is under the speed limit, a Chicago trucking accident lawyer can make the case for driver negligence, if the speed of the vehicle was too fast for the conditions.
Road conditions also play a role when a driver is unfamiliar with an uneven road surface, blind turns, or unmarked road crossings.
Driver fatigue is the direct or leading cause of 17 percent of accidents, but fatigue plays a role in most crashes. Fatigue comes from many sources. Drivers are unable to get enough uninterrupted sleep to become fully rested, while too many hours on the road cause drivers to become mentally disengaged with driving.
A Chicago trucking accident lawyer will use log books and driver statements to determine if violations of federal trucking regulations occurred. When a clear violation is present, the driver is guilty of negligence.
States and the federal government are responding with a series of new regulations for the trucking industry.
Elimination of Chameleon Carriers
If a company faces sanctions from the FMCSA because of driver negligence or company violations of federal law, the business owner may choose to shut down operations. When the owner reopens the company under a different name, they are creating a “chameleon carrier“. The FMCSA is cracking down on chameleon carriers, because the owners have a history of putting the public at risk.
Drug And Alcohol Testing
Improved federal oversight will allow the government to build a database of drivers who have violated drug and alcohol rules in the past. This would enable companies to perform better background checks of potential hires, and limit the ability of serial violators to find a new job.
The American Trucking Associations and the Department of Transportation agreed that the best way to tackle speeding by truck drivers was to mandate electronic governors on all trucks. The devices would limit top speeds to 65 mph, and decrease both the frequency and severity of accidents.