Whether headed to work, a store, a child’s sports practice or a vacation destination, there is a high likelihood that you will share the road with a semi-truck or tractor trailer truck. As the number of trucks on the road increases year after year, drivers must be cautious and diligent to prevent a deadly accident.
Truck Traffic is Growing
The movement of freight in North America is a massive and growing industry. Trucking and freight-hauling are integral aspects of our economy – especially here in Pennsylvania. Transportation of fuel, food, products and goods via tractor trailer truck happens regularly throughout Pennsylvania due to our central location and interstate infrastructure.
Trucks move roughly 72% of the nation’s freight. The number of heavy trucks or semi-trucks on the road grew by 22.9 percent between 2010 – 2018, according to the US Department of Transportation. They project long-haul freight truck traffic will to expand by more than 55 percent in upcoming years.
Truck Accident Frequency on the Rise
The number of truck accidents and fatal crashes continues to rise as well. Eleven percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2019 were due to large truck crashes.
In 2018, nearly 5,100 fatal crashes involved large trucks and buses – an increase of 8 percent from 2016. Large truck accidents caused the deaths of 4,119 people in 2019 – an increase of 31 percent from 2009. In two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck, 97 percent of fatalities were occupants of the passenger vehicles.
Pennsylvania Traffic Statistics
According to the 2019 Pennsylvania Crash Facts and Statistics compiled by PennDOT, Pennsylvania has more than 120,000 miles of roads and highways and, in 2019, vehicles traveled approximately 102.1 billion miles on those roads and highways.
As vehicles traveled in and through Pennsylvania, over 125,000 reportable traffic accidents transpired – approximately 343 crashes a day. On average, three people were fatally injured and 209 people were injured in reportable traffic accidents each day.
Truck Accidents in Pennsylvania
Tractor trailer trucks were involved in more than 7,300 of these crashes. The number of heavy truck accidents were the highest since 2015, though fatal injury crashes decreased.
Fatalities in Pennsylvania from heavy-truck accidents have decreased by more than 20 percent since 2016, according to the 2019 Pennsylvania Crash Facts and Statistics. In 2016, there were 162 heavy truck-related fatalities, while in 2019, there were 128 fatalities.
The majority of semi-truck accidents occurred on state roads and highways. Nearly 56 percent of tractor trailer truck accidents and 59 percent of fatalities occurred on Pennsylvania state highways and routes. Fewer semi-truck accidents happened on Pennsylvania interstates, about 1/3 of crashes fatal heavy-truck accidents. 22 percent of crashes happened on minor roads.
More than a third of all fatal tractor truck accidents happened at night (between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.)
Causes of Heavy Truck Accidents
Unsafe driving behaviors cause accidents. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), unsafe driver behavior caused more than 88 percent of large truck accidents and 93 percent of passenger vehicle crashes in 2019.
Unsafe driving behaviors include speeding, distractions or inattention, and impairment.
Preventing a Truck Accident
Safe driving prevents accidents. If you are involved with a truck accident, consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Pennsylvania immediately. Semi-truck accident cases are complex and a knowledgeable PA attorney’s advice will be invaluable.
Follow these tips to prevent tractor trailer accidents.
Obey posted speed limits. The most frequent driver-related factor in accidents of all kinds is speeding. Not only is speeding breaking a posted law, it also puts drivers, passengers and those sharing the road into harm’s way.
Limit distractions while driving. The second most common factor in semi-truck accidents is driver distraction or inattention. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that distractions were involved in 71 percent of commercial vehicle crashes and 46 percent of near-crashes in a 2009 study.
A distraction is anything that takes a driver’s attention away from driving, including include texting, looking at a map, reading or writing, eating, or reaching for an object.
Don’t drive drowsy. Studies by the CDC have shown that being awake for at least 18 hours is comparable with having a blood content (BAC) of 0.05 percent. For comparison, the legal BAC limit in all states is 0.08 percent.
Because drowsy driving is known to play a role in accidents, federal regulations have been enacted to ensure large truck drivers have breaks to rest.
Heavy truck drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours a day and must take a non-driving break of 30 consecutive minutes after driving for a period of 8 cumulative hours. The goal of these federal regulations is to decrease drowsy driving and make roadways safer for everyone.
Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. DUI laws are well established in Pennsylvania, but there are stricter standards for drivers of large and heavy vehicles due to their capacity to cause great harm. Read prescription and over-the-counter medicine labels to stay alert and prevent truck accidents.
Stay visible and avoid tractor truck blind spots. Large, heavy trucks have different and larger blind spots than passenger vehicles. This is especially important to remember when merging, passing or changing lanes near a semi-truck. Remember, if you cannot see the truck driver in their side mirror, they cannot see you.
Watch out for wide turns. Due to their large size and big loads, semi-trucks need more space to maneuver when making turns. Give extra berth at intersections and never squeeze between a truck and the curb.
Slow down and drive with caution. Heavy trucks do not accelerate or slow down as quickly as passenger cars due to differences in operation and braking capability. Trucks often weigh 20 times more than cars and loaded tractor trailer trucks take 35-65 percent further to stop than cars, according to the National Safety Council.So, if you are driving near large trucks, slow down and be patient.
Never cut off or tailgate a tractor trailer truck. Both put the smaller vehicle in a compromised position and at a much higher risk for a devastating and often fatal truck accident – either through a rear end accident or an underriding accident (when a smaller vehicle slides under the truck)..
What to do after a Tractor Trailer Truck Accident
After any large truck accident, call 911 and report the accident. Remain at the scene of the truck accident until the police arrive and clear you to leave. Leaving the scene before the police arrive may make you liable for “hit and run” criminal charges. It is acceptable to move the vehicles out of traffic and onto the side of the road, if they are drivable.
After receiving help, document as much of the truck accident as possible. Note the date, time and location of the truck accident, as well as the weather conditions.
Gather the following information:
- The driver’s name, passenger’s name and name of his or her supervisor
- The trucking company name and address
- The name of the company that hired the trucking company
- The company’s insurance company and policy number
- The truck’s license plate and identifying information (make/model
- Names, phone numbers and addresses of any witnesses
- Notes about what the driver and witnesses say that may be important to your case
- A copy of the police report
Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer
Seek legal help as soon as possible from an experienced truck accident lawyer. Heavy truck accidents are more complex than other vehicle accidents and fresh evidence may be beneficial to your case. Working with a truck accident lawyer may enable you to receive financial compensation for medical costs, lost wages, property loss, and pain and suffering due to another party's negligence or responsibility.
The Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC Difference
Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC’s truck accident lawyers have helped hundreds of clients file successful truck accident lawsuits, with both in-state and out-of-state drivers.
Our truck accident and personal injury attorneys, Doug Engelman, David Wilk and Gary Black, have decades of experience in personal injury law, winning substantial settlements for their clients. David Wilk formerly worked as an attorney for insurance companies, defending lawsuits brought against their insured.
Results with Cases Like Yours
Truck Accident Settlement of $5.44 Million - Personal Injury Attorney Doug Engelman provided personal injury legal help following a tragic truck accident negotiating a substantial settlement of $5.44 million dollars.
Truck Accident Settlement of $1 Million – Personal Injury Attorney Doug Engelman settled an automobile and truck collision case for $1 million dollars.
Truck Accident Settlement of $435,000 – Personal Injury Attorney David Wilk negotiated a settlement of $435,000 for an automobile and truck accident case.
Truck Accident Settlement of $315,000 – Personal Injury Attorney David Wilk settled a truck accident case for $315,000.
Contact our Personal Injury Lawyers to Discuss Your Truck Accident Today!
If you have been in a heavy truck accident or semi-truck accident, contact us before you speak with the insurance companies. The consultation is free, but the results can be invaluable.