Top 4 Causes of Tractor Trailer Accidents
If you live in or near Richmond, you likely drive one of our nation’s most heavily congested highways: Interstate 95. It’s one of Richmond’s major thoroughfares, but can be a dangerous place to drive. In the downtown stretch where the nation’s longest north-south artery runs concurrently with Interstate 64, the heavy traffic can be grueling. Up to 295,000 vehicles pass through Richmond on I-95 each day, with about 6% or 18,000 of those being large tractor trailers or buses1. Driving near 18-wheeler tractor trailer trucks can be a stressful experience, and can also be dangerous.
Because they deliver essential products from state to state, 18-wheelers and their drivers are on the road more often than other vehicles, increasing the likelihood of a tractor trailer accident in Richmond, VA. While any car accident is dangerous and potentially life-threatening, because of their size, weight, speed and rollover tendency, a tractor trailer accident can pose a significant threat to drivers of smaller vehicles, including typical family sedans and SUVs.
There’s no escaping driving near tractor trailers in our city. As Richmond tractor trailer accident attorneys, we believe that knowing the common causes of tractor trailer accidents could help improve your safety on the road. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, here are some top causes of tractor trailer accidents:
- Misjudging traffic flow and road conditions. With its increased length and weight, a tractor trailer has diminished maneuverability and increased stopping distance compared with the smaller vehicles most of us drive. Drivers of 18-wheelers are aware of these drawbacks, but sometimes misjudge the speed of traffic, are unfamiliar with the roadway, or have to react suddenly to other vehicles cutting them off or driving irresponsibly around the big rigs. This can cause devastating damage when it results in a traffic collision between an 18-wheeler and an automobile. The lesson here is: when you’re driving near a large truck, be aware of their limitations. Don’t try to speed by them and cut them off; instead, allow them extra time and space for safety.
- Distracted driving. This is a problem for all drivers, but especially for those responsible for driving a trailer weighing up to 80,000 pounds on a congested highway. Whether it’s a cell phone, the radio or something on the roadside, when drivers let their eyes wander off the road, the results can be disastrous.
- Driver fatigue. Even though trucking companies have procedures in place to limit driver fatigue, they don’t always consider an individual driver’s sleep habits. We all suffer from an occasional sleepless night, right? Combine that with the sometimes unrealistic schedules that truck drivers are expected to meet, and it can be a recipe for disaster. If a tractor trailer driver falls asleep at the wheel, he or she can cause catastrophic damage.
- Driving while intoxicated. It’s not just alcohol that can be a danger to truck drivers, but also drugs – including legal prescription drugs. Many prescription drugs come with labeling advising against the operation of heavy machinery, which includes 18-wheelers, while using the medication. However, with a demanding schedule, heeding this warning isn’t always realistic for truck drivers. Some may choose to take their medications and operate their trucks against doctors’ orders. This choice can lead to tragic consequences if a tractor trailer accident occurs while you’re driving an automobile nearby.