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What Is the Number One Cause of Truck Accidents?

January 21, 2022

Due to their massive size and weight, trucks and other large commercial vehicles are responsible for some of the most catastrophic and life-altering accidents on the road today. In the aftermath of a truck accident, severe injuries and death are far too common. Victims often suffer physical trauma, permanent disability, chronic pain, and psychological dysfunction.

The seasoned truck accident lawyers at Coplan + Crane have extensive experience handling these complex cases. We will work diligently to hold the party or parties responsible for your injuries accountable for their negligence. If you were hurt in a truck wreck in Chicago, Oak Park, Rockford, or other areas in Illinois, we can help.

What Causes the Most Truck Accidents?

While driver inexperience, speeding, distracted driving, and driving under the influence can all cause devastating truck crashes, the single most common cause of truck accidents is truck driver fatigue. 

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 87% of all truck accidents are the result of four driver-related factors. The FMCSA defines these “critical reasons” for truck accidents as follows:

  • Non-performance (12% of truck accidents): “Non-performance” includes falling asleep behind the wheel and other causes of physical impairment. 
  • Recognition (28% of truck accidents): Causes of truck accidents related to “recognition” include inattentiveness and “fail[ure] to observe the situation adequately for some other reason.”
  • Decision (38% of truck accidents): Misjudging the speed of other vehicles, following too closely, and driving too fast for the conditions are all “decision” factors that can (and do) lead to truck accidents. 
  • Performance (9% of truck accidents): The FMCSA gives “exercise[ing] poor directional control” as one of several examples of “performance”-related causes of truck accidents. 

Fatigue can be (and often is) a factor in all four of the FMCSA’s driver-related “critical reasons” for truck accidents. Here are just some of the ways that fatigue can impair truck drivers’ abilities and increase their risk of causing a serious or fatal accident: 

1. Non-Performance Issues

The FMCSA specifically gives “falling asleep” as an example of non-performance. But, even if a truck driver doesn’t fall asleep behind the wheel, fatigue can still cause significant performance-related impairments. As the National Safety Council (NSC) explains, “drivers who are fatigued are much more likely to make critical errors resulting in crashes.” Among other effects, fatigue increases reaction time; this means that fatigued truck drivers are less capable of responding to dangerous situations on the roadway.

2. Recognition Problems

According to the NSC, the crash risk for driving on 4-5 hours of sleep is the same crash risk as driving drunk with a 0.08 alcohol concentration. In other words, driving while fatigued causes impairments similar to those caused by driving while intoxicated. This means that not only are fatigued drivers less capable of responding to dangerous situations, but they are also less likely to recognize dangerous situations in the first place. 

3. Poor Decision Making

Fatigue decreases a driver’s ability to think clearly and remain attentive and vigilant while operating a vehicle. When a truck driver is fatigued behind the wheel, he or she is less capable of making smart decisions. Fatigue also impairs truck drivers’ ability to make decisions quickly—which can be critical when they encounter hazards on the road. 

4. Performance Issues

Even if a truck driver is able to recognize a hazardous situation and make the right decision in time, fatigue can still impair the driver’s ability to react appropriately. Our bodies simply don’t function as well when they are tired, and this factor alone is the cause of many fatigue-related truck accidents. 

Why Is Fatigue a Particular Concern for Truck Drivers? 

Fatigue is a major problem for all drivers. The NSC reports that 21% of fatal crashes involve a drowsy driver. It also reports that drivers are three times more likely to be involved in an accident if they are fatigued. 

However, fatigue is a particular concern for truckers because they spend more hours on the road than most other drivers, routinely spending several hours behind the wheel. This means there is a greater risk that a trucker will get fatigued while driving. While federal regulations limit the number of hours truckers can drive, (i) the number of permissible hours is still more than enough for truck drivers to get fatigued, and (ii) many truck drivers and trucking companies don’t follow the law.

If you suffered serious injuries because of a fatigued or otherwise negligent truck driver, you deserve compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial losses. A truck accident lawyer can help you pursue the full value of your claim.

How Can Fatigued Driving Be Prevented?

Fatigue-related truck accidents are 100% preventable. Given the high risk of these accidents, truck drivers and trucking companies should actively take steps to prevent them. Unfortunately, many do not. Too many trucking companies prioritize profits over safety, and would rather truckers make deliveries on time than take steps to keep everyone safe on the road. 

Simple steps truckers and trucking companies can (and should) take to prevent fatigue-related truck accidents include:

  • Complying with federal driving hour restrictions for truck drivers
  • Understanding the signs of fatigue
  • Taking scheduled breaks 
  • Taking additional breaks when necessary 
  • Using technological tools to identify and warn fatigued drivers

Call a Chicago Truck Accident Lawyer for FREE

Fatigue-related truck accidents are preventable, and truck drivers and trucking companies that fail to prevent them deserve to be held accountable. The truck accident attorneys at Coplan + Crane can help. We aren’t intimidated by big trucking companies and we never back down from a fight.
Don’t face your injuries alone. If you or a member of your family has been hurt in a truck accident, call (708) 358-8080 today or contact us online to arrange a FREE, no-obligation consultation. Coplan + Crane serves Chicago, Oak Park, Rockford, or other communities across Illinois.