Despite a decrease in overall traffic fatalities, the number of deaths attributed to big rig crashes continues to soar. In Kentucky, heavy trucks were involved in nearly 10,650 crashes in 2019. That was a mere 4% of all traffic accidents. Yet, big rigs were responsible for over 9% of all fatal crashes, killing more than 100 people.
The gigantic dimension of heavy trucks is often deemed core contributors to the hazards they bring to the roadways. In reality, driver error is the catalyst that heightens the risks posed by the enormous weight and size of tractor-trailers. So, continue reading to know more about the top causes of big rig accidents in Kentucky.
Who’s to blame the trucker or the motorist?
According to a 1999 study based on KY State Police reports, other motorists were to be blamed in 66% of all heavy truck accidents. An FMCSA study had similar findings with the sole difference being that a higher blame-percentage was attributed to the drivers of passenger vehicles.
Unfortunately, there is no recent research on the matter. And, depending on whose version you choose to accept (American Trucking Association or Truck Safety Coalition) you may stumble upon different figures and conclusions. Nearly 90% of all big rig accidents are caused by human factors. For instance, in KY:
- 105 big rig crashes were attributed to vehicle-related factors.
- 9821 heavy truck accidents were caused by human factors.
- 724 big rig crashes were linked to environmental factors.
The top 10 causes for big rig accidents in Kentucky
- Inattention:With nearly 3500 big rig collisions attributed to this one cause, this is the single most dangerous behavior that motorist and truckers can display while on the road. Zoning out may be caused by boredom, fatigue, distraction, daydreaming or even when fiddling with the technology gadgets meant to help drivers.
Whatever the reason, when a motorist shifts his focus from the road, for every second spent in the state of inattentiveness, the vehicle covers a distance of 60 feet when travelling at 40 mph and 80 feet at 55 mph.
It takes the brain about a second to register the impending danger and another second to generate the impulse that moves your foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal. That’s 120 feet of forward distance covered already.
But moving vehicles don’t just come to an abrupt halt in a split second. So, for a regular passenger vehicle that’s an addition of 300 feet and for a big rig that’s about 520 feet more. That is what a second’s worth of inattentiveness is worth in terms of distance travelled. So, it is understandable why this is one of the most common causes of big rig accidents.
- Misjudged clearance:While truckers are more cautious when judging clearance, other motorists tend to have a more cavalier attitude. Unfortunately, aggressive overtaking and speeding often lead to accidents caused by misjudged clearance. Nearly 1900 big rig accidents are attributed to this factor, including at least 3 fatal collisions.
- Failure to yield right of way:The NHTSA calls this the fourth deadliest driving behavior in the country, and rightly so. In Kentucky, almost 900 big crashes can be blamed on this perilous driver behavior.
But that is not the worst of it! Failure to yield right of way also leads to a disproportionately significant number of fatal crashes. In 2019, there were 15 such crashes, putting this factor in the top 3 causes of fatal accidents in our state.
- Following too closely:Nearly 500 big rig accidents are attributed to either the trucker or the motorists following too closely. As explained above, after the brakes are hit, it takes anywhere between 300 to 520 feet for the vehicle to come to a stop.
But that much distance is more than enough to send the vehicle behind plowing into the car/truck ahead. This behavior, again, was observed to be more common among passenger vehicle drivers than truckers.
In fact, according to the 1999 FHTSA study, a vehicle rear-ending a big rig was one of the most common types of heavy truck collisions in the country. Of course, this is not to say that the driver who rear-ends is always at fault.
- Speeding and going too fast for conditions:Along with inattention and alcohol impairment, speeding continues to be a danger on the roads of KY and the country. In 2019, speeding and going too fast for conditions, together, contributed to 256 crashes, of which 12 were fatal.
- Loss of control causes the loss of life!
The factor that caused the maximum number of fatal big rig accidents is one that is categorized as “not under proper control”. For 3 years in a row, this factor has been the biggest killer on KY roads. So, what exactly is “not in proper control”?
In police reports, this factor is listed as the cause when the driver fails to control the direction and movement of the vehicle for no justifiable reason. Think skids and big rig jack knifing. While this was listed as the critical factor in 37 of the 98 fatal collisions in 2019, it’s usually the outcome of one or more associated factors.
Inattention, driving under influence, speeding, going too fast for conditions, sudden braking and other factors and maneuvers can all cause the vehicle to go out of control. And once that happens, the motorist has little choice besides watching the horror enfold in front of his eyes, since he can no longer apply evasive/corrective measures.
The fact that most new age vehicles are equipped with ECS systems has helped to control the devastation to some extent. But technology is still no match to human penchant for crossing boundaries. And that explains why this factor continues to remain one of the biggest hazards that causes heavy truck accidents!
But, what about the environmental and vehicle factors and road conditions?
Crashes due to environmental, vehicle and road factors even when put together don’t come anywhere close to matching the devastation and death caused by driver errors. But, of these, the vehicle factors that did pose a problem included:
- Tire failure: This was listed as the cause in 137 collisions, including 16 injury collisions and 1 fatal accident.
- Defective brakes:A contributing factor in over 80 collisions, defective brakes caused the highest number of fatal big rig crashes that occurred due to vehicle factors.
- Improper load securement: 128 collisions were attributed to this factor, including 11 injury collisions. The big problem is that the debris left behind on the roads continues to pose a hazard to motorists long after the big rig is well past the state line.
- As far as environmental and road conditions go, given the sleet, snow and rain received by the bluegrass state, it comes as no surprise that slippery surface poses the biggest problem.
Things just get harder for victims of big rig crashes!
No matter what factors eventually led to the crash, the fact is that the injuries suffered by victims of big rig collisions are usually very serious.
More often than not, these injuries and their long lasting impact cause loss of life quality and disability that impacts the victims work life and earning capacity.
If you have been hurt in a big rig crash, you only stand a chance of receiving fair compensation if you have a dedicated legal team that has the experience and the commitment to fight for your rights.
Sam Aguiar Injury Lawyers has represented thousands of seriously injured victims and helped them to get the restitution they needed to rebuild their lives. And we will do the same for you!
Contact us today for a free, no obligation case review to learn how we can help you to protect your rights.