Californians who are familiar with the 18-wheeler trucks that crowd the state’s roadways know how intimidating it can be to have to share the road with them in heavy traffic or bad weather. What many people do not realize is just how dangerous a large truck can be if the driver loses control of the vehicle.
That apparently has never happened to one truck driver who just completed 4,000,000 miles without ever so much as a fender bender. The 79-year-old trucker, Don Cook, hails from Allentown, Pennsylvania but regularly drove routes to California during his 47-year career. As Cook puts it, his approach to driving involves skill and patience, and maybe even a bit of Zen. His enshrinement as a trucking legend will hopefully inspire more truckers to be like him, in order to reduce the frequency of catastrophic accidents.
What it means to share the road with a large truck
Large trucks and tractor-trailers are massive vehicles. Where an average-sized passenger car weighs 4,000 pounds, a fully loaded semi can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. If the truck is carrying hazmat or flammable materials, a collision can spark a fire that may result in catastrophic secondary injuries.
Big rigs are bulky and difficult to maneuver or slow down. Professional drivers are trained to handle these vehicles safely, but even so, trucks do not brake quickly when travelling at high speeds, and they are also prone to jackknifing when slowing down too quickly or when the road surface is slippery.
In a collision with a passenger vehicle, the truck driver will usually walk away unscathed. But as a car is lower to the ground, if it slides under the truck the occupants can be crushed or decapitated. Head and neck trauma are common injuries in such accidents. Although large trucks make up only around 4% of vehicles on our nation’s highways, they account for 1 in 10 deaths.
The main causes of truck accidents
Driver error contributes to over half of all fatal crashes that involve large trucks, and truck driver error makes up one third of those accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) cites the primary causes:
- Driver distraction or inattention
- Fatigued or impaired driving
- Careless or reckless driving
- Failure to yield the right of way
Truck drivers are often on tight schedules, so getting to a destination on time can influence bad decisions. Truckers often violate strict federal hours-of-service regulations as well as the required break times and rests. As a result, they can become fatigued or drowsy after many hours on the road, relying on stimulants to stay awake. Chemical or alcohol-impaired driving also accounts for a significant percentage of truck accidents.
For residents of Southern California, it is important when filing a negligence claim to a find out more about how the investigative work and third-party or insurance claims that are often part of a truck accident will maximize the potential for a fair settlement.