The Mechanical Defects Most Likely to Cause Truck Accidents
The public and the media pay a great deal of attention to semi-truck accidents caused by driver errors such as texting, driving too fast for conditions and violating rest requirements. This attention is warranted; the vast majority of truck accidents are due, at least in part, to driver error. However, actual problems with the truck that are seldom the driver's fault also cause serious truck accidents, and such causes may be underreported.
A 2009 study published by the University of Michigan Transportation Resources Institute found a causal relationship between truck condition and crashes. Fifty-five percent of large trucks examined after accidents had one or more mechanical problems. Nearly 30 percent had mechanical conditions that should have taken the truck off the road (out of service).
Statistics About Fatal Truck Accidents
Sources show that in recent years, between 5,000 and 5,200 semi trucks annually were involved in fatal crashes across the United States. These accidents resulted in approximately 4,508 fatalities, including 639 truck drivers (2008). Those killed included an average of 362 pedestrians and 87 bicycle riders. Texas, California and Florida accounted for the largest number of fatal truck crashes between 2004 and 2008.
The Role of Mechanical Problems
What is the role of mechanical problems in truck accidents? The answer varies, depending on the study cited, although most studies show that mechanical problems are underreported. Researchers agree that a truck involved in a fatal crash is more likely to have mechanical defects and at least one condition that should have taken the vehicle out of service (OOS). What complicates these studies is the difficulty of determining the degree to which driver error influenced the crash. For example, is a driver who is alert and not distracted better able to correct for a mechanical defect and avoid a crash?
Brakes and More
Researchers have shown that problems with braking and lighting systems, tire and wheel violations such as inadequate tread depth, and suspension violations cause numerous truck wrecks. Brake problems appear to be an especially significant cause of rear-end crashes and intersection crashes in which a truck runs into another vehicle, while lighting problems seem to be important factors in crashes in which the truck is hit by another vehicle.
Additional significant crash factors include load securement and steering systems. Many trucks inspected after crashes had multiple mechanical violations and problems that by themselves may not be statistically significant, but when combined with other system and maintenance problems become causative factors in truck accidents.
In addition to identifying brake and lighting systems as the most frequent mechanical factor in truck accidents, studies show other interesting facts:
•· The biggest month for truck crashes is February.
•· Most accidents occur in rural areas.
•· Most truck accidents take place on dry roads and in daylight hours.
•· Eleven percent of crashes involve another vehicle crossing the center line and colliding head on with a truck.
What stands out in the studies of the degree to which mechanical problems contribute to truck accidents is the degree to which causative factors are combined. For example, driver error, combined with malfunctioning brakes, is far more likely to result in an accident than either poor braking systems or distracted drivers by themselves.
Attorneys who seek compensation for victims of trucking accidents should consult trucking experts to fully understand the role of mechanical problems in any particular incident. This will allow them to best serve the needs of their clients by building stronger cases.