If you or your loved one has recently been injured by a large commercial vehicle in Georgia, you should understand some of the most common causes of truck accidents in Augusta, as well as the various grounds for bringing a personal injury claim to recover your losses.
Throughout this article, we will refer to a large national study of truck accidents, conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCA). Published in 2007, this comprehensive study looked at hundreds of thousands of large trucking accidents across the country.
Here in Augusta, GA, we’ve seen many of these same factors in a number of truck accidents locally — including multiple truck accidents in the Augusta area within the last few months alone.
Truck Driver Fatigue
According to the FMCA study, driver fatigue was a primary risk factor in 18,000 of the 141,000 cases studied.
In other words, drowsy driving is responsible for about 13% of all serious truck accidents. Unsurprisingly, other studies have found that truck drivers battling fatigue are significantly more likely to cause a crash.
This is hardly a new problem. In fact, truck driver fatigue has caused so many serious crashes over the years that the federal government has enacted Hours of Service laws, which strictly regulate how long a trucker can stay behind the wheel before getting a break for sleep.
Unfortunately, truck drivers are often put under pressure by their employers, who may overschedule them for long shifts or unrealistic delivery deadlines. When that happens, accidents become more likely, and the employer may be liable for violating the Hours of Service laws.
Drunk or Drugged Driving
Intoxicated driving is a problem across all accident types, but for one reason or another, it is especially pervasive in truck accidents.
It isn’t just alcohol or illicit street drugs that are impairing drivers, however. Prescription and over-the-counter medications — which are otherwise lawful — are a significant cause of truck accidents in Augusta too.
The FMCA study found that over-the-counter drug use was a factor in 17% of truck crashes nationwide. Illegal drugs add another 2% to the total, and alcohol another 1%.
Carrier companies can be held liable for overloading their trucks with excessive or improper cargo. Here again, the industry too often allows its economic concerns to override the demands of safety.
Overloaded trucks pose a danger to everyone on the road. They are more likely to roll over, they are harder to brake in an emergency, and the driver is more likely to lose control of an overloaded truck when driving at excessive speeds or down a steep hill. Additionally, excessive weight can put undue strain on the truck’s mechanics, making the vehicle more likely to malfunction on a long trip.
Even if the cargo is not too heavy, it can still pose a danger if it is unevenly loaded or improperly secured within the truck bed or trailer. Shifting cargo is a factor in 4% of all truck crashes according to the FMCA study.
Similarly, some cargo (including certain liquids, toxic substances, or flammable materials) can only be transported in specially designed and approved vehicles. Using a truck for the wrong purposes can quickly lead to devastating injuries, to say nothing of the broader environmental concerns.
Poor Truck Maintenance
Truck operators also have a duty to routinely inspect their trucks for problems — and to ensure adequate, ongoing maintenance.
Two of the most common truck maintenance issues are brake problems (a factor in 29% of the truck accidents) and tire problems (occurring in 6% of truck accidents).
If you have been injured in a Georgia truck accident, you should talk to a lawyer about your options for investigating the cause of the crash. Poor truck maintenance may have been a factor.
Lack of Clearance
Bridges, overpasses, and garage entrances come in many different shapes and sizes.
Truck drivers have a duty to know their vehicle’s clearance limit and to ensure they have adequate clearance before passing under any overhead obstruction.
Unfortunately, there have been a number of truck crashes caused by a large vehicle colliding with the underside of a bridge, overpass, or other structure due to lack of clearance, sometimes with disastrous results.
Insufficient Experience or Training / Negligent Hiring
Employers are responsible for choosing qualified people to entrust with their large vehicles and other commercial machinery. They have a duty to:
- Make careful hiring decisions,
- Ensure adequate licensure (such as a valid and active state driver’s license and Commercial Driver’s License, also known as a CDL),
- To carry out background checks when appropriate,
- To address any known issues or patterns of negligence by their employees, and
- To provide adequate training to their drivers.
Failure to meet these duties can subject the employer to liability for an accident.
The FMCA study found that excessive speed was a factor in 32,000 of the cases studied, or 23%. Speeding is always dangerous, and it constitutes negligence under Georgia personal injury law.
In fact, a driver may even be liable for driving within the posted speed limit if his or her speed is too fast for the conditions at hand (such as heavy rain or inclement weather, for instance).
Speeding is one of the most common causes of truck accidents in Augusta, GA. at M. Austin Jackson Attorney at Law, we sometimes work with accident reconstruction specialists to determine the traveling speed of the commercial vehicle at the time of the crash.
It’s easy to think of texting while driving as a teenager’s vice, but the truth is that adults are just as bad about it (and there is evidence to back that up). Truck drivers are no exception.
But texting isn’t the only distraction that causes truck crashes. Eating, drinking, tuning the radio, reading a map, talking on the phone, or using a CB radio can all be dangerously distracting too.
The FMCA study found that external distractions were a factor 8% of the time, internal distractions 2% of the time, and driver inattention 9% of the time.
Experts believe most traffic safety studies underestimate the prevalence of distracted driving, as it can be difficult to prove after the fact (though technology is making it easier to pinpoint distraction as a culprit).
Truck drivers can also become distracted when they are unfamiliar with the territory, as they may resort to maps, GPS devices, or searching for street signs to orient themselves to their assigned route.
The FMCA found that driver unfamiliarity with the roadway was a crash factor 22% of the time.
When drivers get angry, flustered, or hurried, they can take their frustrations out on other drivers by tailgating, passing aggressively, or driving recklessly.
In the FMCA study, following too closely was a factor in 5% of serious truck crashes.
Dangerous Road or Weather Conditions
Earlier, we mentioned the importance of adjusting one’s speed during heavy rain or inclement weather. Drivers should always remain vigilant and modify their driving habits to accommodate the conditions they find on the road.
This is especially important at night, when visibility is reduced. A common cause of truck accidents in Augusta has been “trips” in the roadway — pieces of debris or fallen cargo left in the roadway (a blown-out tire, for example) that causes a speeding truck to lose balance and flip over.
Because of their large size and high center of gravity, large trucks are more susceptible to dangerous rollovers (and can cause greater damage when it happens).
As Augusta truck accident lawyers, one of the things we look for during our initial investigative process is whether there is any evidence of dangerous road of weather conditions that should have caused the driver to modify his or her operation of the vehicle.
Truck Driver Illness / Heart Attack
The FMCA noted that a number of truck accidents involved a medical emergency on the part of the truck driver, from sudden illness or loss of consciousness to heart attack, seizure, or stroke.
While these conditions are not always caused by negligence, there may be a link to substance abuse, negligent hiring, negligent supervision, or violations of Hours of Service laws. In those cases, victims may have a claim against the driver and/or their employer.
Veering into Other Lanes or Off the Road
How many times have you been driving down the road when a large, intimidating truck drifts over toward your lane, coming far too close for comfort?
Unfortunately, these accidents are all too common. Truck drivers have a tremendous responsibility on their hands, and they must exercise due care to stay within their lanes at all times (and to use proper signaling and clearance when changing lanes or exiting a roadway).
Sometimes, the party responsible for a truck accident wasn’t in your car or inside the commercial truck. Rather, a third party driver’s negligence might have caused a multi-car collision.
Alternatively, it might be that both the truck driver and another driver were negligent.
In any case, if a large truck is involved, the likelihood of severe injuries goes up.
Personal injury claims involving more than one negligent party can be especially complex, but an experienced Augusta truck accident lawyer can help.
Schedule a Free Consultation with M. Austin Jackson Attorney at Law
Have you suffered the effects of these or other common causes of truck accidents in Augusta, GA? Has your loved one been injured or killed in a truck crash and you believe someone else’s negligence is to blame? Please call the Jackson Law Offices, P.C. to request a free case review right away.
You can talk to one of our experienced Augusta truck accident lawyers for free — with no obligations whatsoever — during a complimentary consultation, in person or over the phone.
If you choose to hire us, you won’t have to pay us anything unless and until we get you money. Our fee will only be a portion of your total recovery.