If you are like most drivers, you probably feel a bit nervous when a semi-truck comes up behind you on the highway—or when you are passed by one going well above the speed limit on a downhill. You are right to be nervous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 4,000 people were killed and 116,000 were injured in semi-truck crashes across the U.S. in 2015. Eighty-four percent of those injured and killed were either occupants of other vehicles or pedestrians. Our trusted Indianapolis truck accident lawyer takes a look at the kinds of accidents these big rigs are involved in so that you can take action to avoid them.
Semi-trucks typically crash in one of the following ways:
- Rollover. Due to the height and instability of a semi-truck, rollover crashes are the most common type of crash. A rollover can be caused by taking a turn or curve in the road at too high a speed or by overcorrecting for a drifting trailer. When a semi-truck rolls over, nearby cars and people are in danger of being crushed under the weight.
- Tire blowouts. A semi-truck's tires are subject to a lot of wear and tear. High mileage and heavy loads mean that truck tires have a short lifespan. However, trucking companies often fail to replace tires as often as they should. These worn tires are more likely to blow out, which can cause the driver to lose control and crash the truck.
- Jackknife. In a jackknife accident, the truck folds at the connection between the cab and the trailer, much like a folding pocket knife. The driver loses control, and the skidding truck can collide with multiple lanes of traffic. Jackknife accidents can be caused by equipment failure, improper braking, poor road conditions, or adverse weather. Jackknifed trucks are also prone to rolling over, making this a doubly dangerous accident.
- Underride collisions. When a semi-truck brakes suddenly, smaller vehicles behind it may be unable to stop in time and can slide underneath the truck’s trailer. These crashes can be gruesome and are often fatal. As the car slides under the trailer, the roof of the car is sheared off, and its occupants may suffer decapitation or other catastrophic injuries. Trucks are required to have a rear underride guard to prevent such an accident, but they are often insufficient to stop a high-speed collision. Side underride guards are not required, putting drivers at risk of sliding under the side of a truck’s trailer.
- Lost load crash. When a truck is improperly loaded or overloaded, it can lose its cargo at highway speeds, creating dangerous obstacles for other vehicles. Trucks can also lose their loads in a collision, adding to the hazards faced by other motorists. Unbalanced loads can also cause a truck driver to lose control and crash.
- Rear-end collision. A common type of crash for all drivers, these crashes are potentially fatal when caused by a semi-truck. When a truck driver is distracted by his cell phone or logbook, he may fail to see that traffic has stopped in front of him and run into the back of a much smaller vehicle. What would be a fender-bender between two cars becomes a much more serious crash when caused by a semi-truck.
- T-bone crash. These crashes usually happen at intersections when one vehicle fails to yield and runs into the side of another vehicle. When a semi-truck t-bones the side of a passenger car, the result can be fatal to the occupant of the car.
All of these crashes can be caused by truck driver errors. Whether the trucker is speeding, distracted, or failed to inspect his vehicle and his load before starting his trip, he should be held accountable for the crash.