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Large Truck Accidents
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Facts about heavy truck braking systems and performance 18 wheelers | Semi-trucks | tractor-trailers | commercial vehicles
A tractor-trailer loaded with freight, safe-rated tires, and properly adjusted brakes, traveling at 55 miles per hour on a clear, dry roadway requires a minimum of 290 feet to come to a complete stop. Mindful of this, it is important to be attentive and drive defensively when sharing the road with large trucks. In 8 out of 10 fatal crashes between cars and trucks, the occupants of the passenger vehicles are killed.
Unlike automobiles, trucks have deep blindspots directly behind them. If you tailgate, not only do you make it impossible for the truck driver to see you, but you also cut off your own view of traffic flow. So staying in this NO-ZONE is almost like inviting a collision.
Trucks have much larger blindspots on both sides than cars do. When you travel in these blindspots for any length of time, you can't be seen by the truck driver. If the truck driver needs to make an emergency maneuver or change lanes, they won't be able to see you and a crash could result.
When the crashes were stratified by the maximum injury severity, different crash patterns emerged, as shown in Table 4. Among non-incapacitating crashes, 39 percent involved only one large truck, and 36 percent involved one large truck and one non-truck. Crashes where an incapacitating injury was the maximum injury severity were distributed in a far different manner across crash type and vehicles involved. Fifty-one percent of these crashes occurred between a large truck and a non-truck, and just 24 percent involved only a large truck. These data show that passengers in vehicles other than large trucks are more likely to be seriously injured than are the passengers within the large truck, when these two different vehicle types collide. The higher the injury severity of the crash, then the more likely the crash involved multiple vehicles.
Crashes where people were fatally injured were more likely to be three-or-more-vehicle crashes, compared to crashes where no one was fatally injured. Thirty-two percent of fatal large-truck crashes involved three or more vehicles, and over three-fifths of these crashes had a large truck in the first harmful event. Only 17 percent of fatal large-truck crashes were single-vehicle crashes, much less than the 24 percent of incapacitating injury crashes and 39 percent of non-incapacitating injury crashes that had a large truck as the only vehicle involved. This shows once again that the injury severity of the crash is less among single-vehicle large-truck crashes, compared to crashes involving one large truck and one non-truck. While only 4 percent of single-vehicle large-truck crashes involved a fatality, fatal crashes constituted 9 percent of crashes that involved a large truck and a non-truck. (NHTSA Large Truck Causation Study)
Critical Event and Critical Reason
The “critical event” of the crash is defined as the event that immediately led to the crash. One and only one critical event is defined for each crash. The critical event is the action or event that made the collision unavoidable.
The “critical reason” is the immediate reason for the critical event, and it describes why the critical event occurred. Possible critical reasons include driver decisions, vehicle failures, and environmental conditions. Both the critical reason and the critical event were recorded at the general level and the specific level. Each critical reason at the general level (i.e., “driver performance factor”) has a variety of different specific levels (i.e., “panic/freezing” and “too fast for curve/turn”). In addition, each critical event at the general level (i.e., “this vehicle traveling”) has a variety of different crash types (i.e., “off the edge of the road on the right side”).
In multi-vehicle crashes, the critical event (general level) for 65 percent of large trucks and 63 percent of other vehicles falls into the three categories of “this vehicle traveling,” “other motor vehicle in lane,” or “other motor vehicle encroaching into lane.” The critical event in 4 percent of the large trucks in multi-vehicle crashes and 47 percent of large trucks in single-vehicle crashes were coded as “this vehicle loss of control.” In multi-vehicle crashes, 28 percent of other vehicles and 19 percent of large trucks have a critical event coded as “this vehicle not involved in first harmful event.”
Examples of the outcomes of the critical event are listed below and shown in the table below:
• Among single-vehicle crashes where the general level of the critical event was “this vehicle loss of control,” the specific level category “traveling too fast for conditions” accounted for 67 percent of the large trucks involved.
• For crashes where the general level of the critical event was “this vehicle traveling,” the specific level category “off the edge of the road on the right side” was seen for 57 percent of large trucks in single-vehicle crashes, and only 2 percent of large trucks in multivehicle crashes, while “over the lane line on left side of travel lane” was seen for 1 percent of the large trucks in single-vehicle crashes, 27 percent of large trucks in multivehicle crashes, and 41 percent of other vehicles in multivehicle crashes.
• “Traveling in same direction with higher speed” was a specific level category under the general level category of “other motor vehicle in lane.” In multivehicle crashes, this specific level category was seen for 39 percent of large trucks and 50 percent of other vehicles.
• In multivehicle crashes with a general level of “other motor vehicle encroaching into lane,” the distribution of specific level categories for both large trucks and other vehicles were quite similar.
The most common pre-crash location for both large trucks (57%) and other vehicles (66%) was coded as “stayed in original travel lane.” This pre-crash location was seen nearly three times as often in multivehicle crashes (68%) than single-vehicle crashes (24%). Almost one-quarter of large trucks as well as other vehicles “stayed on roadway, but left original lane.” “Departed roadway” was the pre-crash location for 49 percent of vehicles in single-vehicle crashes and 5 percent of vehicles in multivehicle crashes, as seen in the table below.
Large & Heavy Truck (18-wheelers, semi-trailer, tractor-trailer, commercial vehicles) accident fatality and serious injury accident information & statistics:
Statistics clearly show that involvement in a crash with a heavy truck, 18-wheeler, semi-trailer, or tractor-trailer is much more likely to result in serious injuries, disability, or death for the occupants of passenger cars. One out of nine traffic fatalities in 2007 resulted from a collision involving a large truck. Of the fatalities that resulted from crashes involving large trucks, 75 percent were occupants of another vehicle, 8 percent were non-occupants, and 17 percent were occupants of a large truck. Of the injuries that resulted from crashes involving large trucks, 75 percent were occupants of another vehicle, 2 percent were non-occupants, and 23 percent were occupants of a large truck.
These statistics are consistent with heavy truck collisions in Missouri, Kansas, and the surrounding states where there is a large proportion of heavy trucks on Kansas and Missouri highways such as I-70, I-35, K10, 435, 470, 670, I-29, I-44, K-7, 635, 69, 71, etc. which run through Kansas City, Jackson County, Johnson County, and Wyandotte County.
In 2007, 413,000 large trucks (gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds) were involved in traffic crashes in the United States; 4,584 heavy trucks (semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, tractor-double-trailers) were involved in fatal crashes. A total of 4,808 people died (12% of all the traffic fatalities reported in 2007) and an additional 101,000 were injured in those crashes.
In 2007, there were 138 fatal crashes in Missouri involving tractor-trailers, semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, and other heavy trucks/commercial vehicles. Many of these deadly truck crashes occurred on I-70 between St. Louis and Kansas City, where the highway is often clogged with heavy truck traffic which leads to serious accidents involving multiple vehicles. A significant number of fatal wrecks involving commercial vehicles also occurred in the Kansas City, Missouri metro area on highways such as I-35, I-29, 71, 670, 470, or in the “Grandview Triangle.”
In 2007, there were 74 fatal crashes in Kansas that involved large or heavy trucks, including many on I-35, I-70, K10, US69, 435, and 635. Some of these occurred in Overland Park, KS, Olathe, KS.
In 2006, large trucks accounted for 4 percent of all registered vehicles and 7 percent of total vehicle miles traveled. In 2007, large trucks accounted for 8 percent of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes and 4 percent of all vehicles involved in injury and property-damage-only crashes.
Large trucks such as semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, or tractor-trailers were much more likely to be involved in a fatal multiple-vehicle crash – as opposed to a fatal single-vehicle crash – than were passenger vehicles (82% of all large trucks involved in fatal crashes, compared with 59% of all passenger vehicles).
In 28 percent of the two-vehicle fatal crashes involving a large truck and another type of vehicle, both vehicles were impacted in the front. The truck was struck in the rear 3.2 times as often as the other vehicle (19% and 6%, respectively).
In half (51%) of the two-vehicle fatal crashes involving a large truck and another type of vehicle, both vehicles were proceeding straight at the time of the crash. In 11 percent of the crashes, the other vehicle was turning. In 9 percent, either the truck or the other vehicle was negotiating a curve. In 7 percent, either the truck or the other vehicle was stopped or parked in a traffic lane (5% and 2%, respectively).
Most of the fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred in rural areas (62%), during the daytime (66%), and on weekdays (78%). During the week, 74 percent of the crashes occurred during the daytime (6 a.m. to 5:59 p.m.). On weekends, 62 percent occurred at night (6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.).
Collisions involving heavy truck drivers under the influence of alcohol are especially dangerous, often leading to fatalities or serious injuries.
The percentage of large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes who had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher was 1 percent in 2007. For drivers of other types of vehicles involved in fatal crashes in 2007, the percentages of drivers with BAC levels .08 g/dL or higher were 23 percent for passenger cars, 23 percent for light trucks, and 27 percent for motorcycles.
Drivers of large trucks were less likely to have a previous license suspension or revocation than were passenger car drivers (8% and 15%, respectively).
Nearly one-fourth (24%) of all large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2007 had at least one prior speeding conviction, compared to 19 percent of passenger car drivers involved in fatal crashes.
66 percent of large-truck drivers were not given a BAC test, while a police-reported BAC test result was collected for 10 percent of large-truck drivers, and a company-reported BAC test result was collected for 9 percent. Only 6 percent of drivers of other vehicles had a police-reported BAC test result, with no company reported BAC test results. Seventy-five percent of the drivers of other vehicles were not given a BAC test, which is 9 percentage points above the 66 percent of large-truck drivers who were not tested.
In single-vehicle large-truck crashes, a BAC test was not given to 55 percent of large-truck drivers, while 27 percent of large-truck drivers had their source of a BAC test result coded as “other (specify).” Only 7 percent of large-truck drivers in multi-vehicle crashes had the source of their BAC test result coded as “other (specify),” with 71 percent coded as “no BAC test.”
Experience matters in heavy truck accidents
3 percent of large-truck drivers were driving their large truck for the first time (in the six months prior to the crash), and another 7 percent had driven their large truck 10 times or less. Only 1 percent of drivers of other vehicles were driving their vehicle for the first time, with just another 3 percent having driven their vehicle 10 times or less. Almost two-thirds of all vehicle drivers had driven their vehicle more than 10 times in the last six months, with the driving patterns of the remaining drivers being coded as “unknown.”