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Truck Accidents: What Are the Most Common Causes?

Truck Accidents: What Are the Most Common Causes?

Breaking Down the Leading Causes of Truck Accidents

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a 33-month study[1] on the causes of large truck collisions. According to the NHTSA, there were approximately 120,000 crashes nationwide during the 33-month study period that involved at least one large truck. The study looked at 963 accidents in 17 different states.
Data was collected on 1,000 elements for each collision, including:

  • The drivers’ behaviors during the accident
  • The condition of the drivers before the accident
  • The condition of the truck and other vehicles
  • Roadway factors and weather conditions

Half of these collisions involved a large truck and a passenger car, pickup truck, van, or SUV. For both trucks and passenger cars, there were significant links between the following factors – which are listed in descending order according to frequency:

  • Prescription drug use
  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Unfamiliarity with roadway
  • Maneuvering illegally
  • Inattention / driver distraction
  • Driver fatigue or illness

Drug & Alcohol Use Among Truck Drivers

The NTSB has been looking at truck driver drug use for the last 25 years. According to the research [2], the use of drugs has been a major factor in both fatal and non-fatal truck accidents. About 79% of truck accident fatalities are passenger car drivers. When drugs are involved, the truck driver fatality rate goes up.
Long days on interstate roadways and a lack of interaction with others is the life of a long haul truck driver. So boredom plays a part in the daily grind for drivers—which often leads to the use of alcohol and drugs. Not surprisingly, methamphetamine is becoming the go-to drug. It allows drivers to stay awake for hours on end.
Methamphetamines can also have adverse effects on the body:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat

These are just a few physical reactions to meth. The bottom line here is that NTSB research shows that 35% of all truckers who die in truck accidents test positive for some kind of illegal drugs. They also conclude that drug usage, including alcohol, by truck drivers is the second largest contributing factor for truck accidents.

Distracted Driving & Driver Inattention

According to the SmartDrive Distracted Driving Index study [3], truckers are distracted 79% of the time during “risky maneuvers” such as sudden stops and swerves. This study used video event recorders within the cab, capturing audio, video and vehicle data. Unsurprisingly, truckers were most distracted by cell phone use.
The study went on to mention that the most distracted truck drivers in the study were 29 times more likely to use their cell phone while driving and 19 times more likely to text as other drivers. The study indicated that these distracted drivers habitually engage in risky driving behavior—putting all other drivers at risk.

Truck Driver Fatigue from Physical Demands

Many people don’t realize that driving a truck can be physically demanding. Driving many hours each day can be very tiring. Sometimes, truckers must also unload their cargo. Being on the road so much means that drivers have a higher possibility of injury due to a higher risk of traffic accidents. Most drivers work long hauls while operating rigs with a capacity of at least 26,000 pounds per gross vehicle weight.
Typically, truck drivers are required to do the following:

  • Drive long distances over an extended period of time
  • Inspect trailers before and after trips, and record any defects
  • Keep a log of their driving activities, including rest breaks
  • Keep their trucks clean and in proper working order
  • Report any mechanical problems to the proper personnel
  • Report any problems to dispatchers while on the road

Before leaving on a trip, the driver may plan his or her own route; after being given the location and time of the delivery, it is up to the driver to get the cargo safely to its final destination. Drivers have to know what roads they are allowed on, and they must also work legally-required rest periods into their trip schedules. With increased stress comes fatigue and distraction, and distraction while driving can be dangerous.

Injured in a Truck Accident? Contact Kaufman Law, P.C.

If you or someone you know has suffered a life-threatening injury from a trucking accident, we encourage you to contact an Atlanta personal injury lawyer at Kaufman Law, P.C. Our attorneys will work tirelessly to help you and your loved ones obtain the compensation you are entitled to for your injuries, lost wages and medical bills.

Please contact our firm today to arrange a free consultation.


At Kaufman Law, P.C., we are passionate about protecting the rights of injured individuals. If you were recently injured in a negligence-related accident, turn to our reputable attorneys for the support you need during this difficult time. Our Atlanta personal injury attorneys work diligently to secure maximum compensation so that our clients can move on with their lives without experiencing financial strain as a result of their injuries. Should you decide to be represented by our firm, you can feel peace of mind in knowing you have enlisted the services of a reputable and caring law firm.


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