Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents in California
Have you recently experienced a semi-truck accident in California? You should know that these types of accidents are becoming increasingly more common. In fact, as of 2020, there has been a 28% increase in fatalities involving large trucks since 2009. 68% of the 4,014 fatalities reported were the occupants of the passenger vehicles involved in the accident.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 10% of motor vehicle crash deaths are truck-related. While passenger vehicle collisions are more common, getting into an accident with a semi-truck can be devastating. It’s essential to maintain safety on the road and be aware of the risk factors associated with these types of accidents. We’ll explore some of these below.
Driver error is a leading cause of semi-truck accidents in California. The different kinds of errors that often lead to these accidents include:
- Switching lanes without fully checking blind spots
- Tailgating other vehicles
- Driving distracted, overworked, or exhausted
- Ignoring traffic laws, such as speed limits
- Making abrupt lane changes or stops
Semi-truck drivers are often navigating roadways across many states, and many of these are freeways. Compared to urban freeways, highways in rural areas typically have less traffic and higher speed limits. It can be easy for truckers to travel them in an almost hypnotic state, not really paying attention to their surroundings. With fewer hurdles on the road to keep them alert, they may begin to fall asleep behind the wheel. They may also believe that texting or taking phone calls is safer on these types of roads. However, these types of driver errors can be deadly out on the road.
While many semi-truck accidents are due to driver errors, some wrecks are also caused by mechanical failures. When the accident is investigated, officials might find that the trucking company was negligent in their care of the vehicle. Not maintaining a semi-truck properly or failing to make prompt repairs can rapidly increase wear and tear on the engine and other mechanical components. If the truck were to suddenly break down in the middle of a drive, everyone around the vehicle is at risk.
Top mechanical failures include:
- Brake problems: These are often caused by worn-out brake pads or discs, leaking brake fluid, or faulty brake lines. Brake issues can increase the truck’s stopping distance, meaning it takes the vehicle longer than normal to stop. In some cases, the vehicle may fail to stop altogether.
- Faulty tires: Worn tires make it easier for trucks to lose control, especially in poor weather conditions. Additionally, improper tire pressure or leaks in the tire can lead to blowouts. Trucking companies should be inspecting tires regularly to minimize risk.
- Transmission failure: Overloading the semi-truck’s cargo capacity is one of the leading causes of transmission failure in semi-trucks. Drivers should never take on more weight than their truck can handle.
- Broken exterior lights: Properly functioning headlights, taillights, and turn signals are all essential to maintaining safety on the road. When these aren’t checked regularly, drivers put others in potential danger.
- Steering issues: Problems with steering can result in major trouble out on the road. The driver can quickly lose control and be unable to avoid hitting other vehicles or pedestrians.
It can be tricky to determine who is at fault when there’s a mechanical failure. Depending on the situation, it could be the driver or the trucking company. At the Office of Kyle W. Jones, we can help you determine who’s at fault and help you pursue compensation for your injuries.
When a driver has aggressive driving habits, they put themselves, other motorists, and their vehicles at risk. You may have heard of “road rage,” which can consist of tailgating, hard braking, weaving in and out of lanes, blocking lanes, and other displays of anger against drivers. However, speeding is also considered aggressive driving, especially in heavy traffic.
Speeding is especially dangerous for semi-truck drivers because their vehicles require a longer stopping distance than passenger vehicles. A fully loaded truck traveling at 65 miles per hour needs approximately 600 feet to stop safely, depending on the truck’s weight, cargo load, and mechanical condition. When a semi-truck driver speeds and traffic suddenly comes to a standstill, they may struggle to slow down before colliding into the vehicle in front of them.
As semi-trucks are much larger than many passenger vehicles, aggressive habits like speeding can lead to a catastrophe if an accident were to happen. These drivers have a responsibility to act with the utmost safety out on the road. If they don’t take this duty seriously, they could be held liable for their recklessness.
Driver fatigue contributes to thousands of semi-truck accidents each year. By federal law, truck drivers are permitted to drive up to 11 hours at a time, but many drivers report that they exceed their allowable hours, often under heavy pressure from employers or customers to meet deadlines. A study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that roughly 13% of commercial drivers were fatigued when they were involved in their accident.
Drowsy driving results in motorists falling asleep behind the wheel and making other careless driving errors that result in accidents, often involving multiple vehicles. Since semi-trucks weigh so much more than passenger vehicles, crashes are more likely to result in fatalities or serious injuries. It’s imperative that drivers are held accountable and follow the law to avoid driver fatigue.
What to Do After an Accident
If you’ve been involved in an accident with a semi-truck, there are certain steps that you should take to protect yourself. First, if you’re able, check on the other driver and any other accident victims. Call for emergency medical assistance if needed. In a semi-truck accident, law enforcement officers will likely come to the scene and take your statement. Gather the contact information of the semi-truck driver and any witnesses. Take pictures of the scene, including the positions of all vehicles and any visible injuries. Next:
- Follow up with your healthcare provider to rule out any injuries. Some injuries, such as whiplash, don’t show up right away.
- Call your insurance company to report the accident. The other driver’s insurance company will also be contacting you, but you should be careful when communicating with them and avoid saying anything that could hurt your claim. It’s a good idea to speak to a lawyer before discussing anything with another party’s insurance company.
- Gather all evidence you have that the accident caused you harm, including the crash report, car repair bills, lost wages, hospital bills, etc.
- Contact a lawyer. When you’ve been harmed in a semi-truck accident, you have rights. A lawyer will be able to best advise you on how to move forward with a claim.
Your Semi-Truck Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been involved in a truck-related accident, you may be facing painful injuries, vehicular damage, and lost wages. You should seek legal representation to ensure your rights are protected. The Law Office of Kyle W. Jones can assist you with your claim from start to finish. We offer a free consultation to review your case. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with a Bakersfield accident attorney.