According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, late last month, a 21-year-old woman from San Antonio, Elysia Neylan Leos, was killed in a truck accident involving an 18-wheeler truck in Duval County, Texas. The news release notes that Leos was a passenger in a 2011 Mercedes-Benz that was traveling north on U.S. Highway 59. In their report, troopers noted that the section of the highway where the accident occurred is unlit and was very dark at the time of the accident, which was just before 6 p.m. on a Sunday. The preliminary finding by DPS was that the driver of the Mercedes veered from his lane and crashed into the right front side of a southbound 18-wheeler Freightliner truck.
This was just another in a large number of truck accidents that mar Texas roads almost every day of the week. Every year, there is a fatality on a Texas road about every two hours, 20 minutes. And one is injured every few minutes. Too often, extremely large trucks are at fault in these accidents, which almost always result in serious damage to both life and property. For this accident, a thorough investigation will have to be conducted, in order to find out what actually happened. One should not assume that the preliminary judgment of the State Troopers who arrived on the scene first characterized the accident accurately. Many truck accidents happen because a commercial truck driver made a mistake, and that may be the case this time, as well.
What Are the Most Common Reasons Truck Drivers Cause Accidents in Texas?
We decided to take a look at the most common causes of accidents involving large trucks. These are the five most common causes of 18-wheeler accidents in Texas, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:
- Truck Driver Fatigue – Many truck drivers end up in accidents due to being simply too tired to drive. There are regulations on the books to limit the number of hours a driver may operate their vehicle, but it’s still not uncommon for drivers to push or even exceed those limits. Many trucking companies set unrealistic standards for drivers and drivers who get paid by the haul are often under tremendous pressure to complete a haul quickly. These sometimes press the driver to drive beyond what is safe for everyone on the road.
- Truck Driver Impatience – The same pressures that can cause a driver to drive too long can cause a driver to lose patience and perhaps even drive somewhat recklessly. Time pressures on many drivers can lead to them taking chances that can lead to disaster.
- Inclement Weather – Horrible weather, including rain, ice or snow, is another major reason for truck accidents. Rain, snow or ice can cause a driver to lose control of their vehicle. When that happens, everyone else on the road is in danger. The size and weight of these trucks mean nearby passenger vehicles are in danger of being crushed by the driver of a truck with a full load losing control. Too often, drivers who are in a hurry to make a delivery drive too fast for the conditions present at the time.
- Driving Under the Influence – Of course, driving any vehicle while under the influence of anything, including alcohol, drugs, or any other intoxicating substance, is illegal, but a small number of truck drivers try their luck anyway, and put everyone else on the road in danger. Too often, alcohol or drugs lead the driver to make unwise decisions.
- Distracted Driving – Truck drivers must pay attention at all times since they are propelling a vehicle carrying as much as 15 tons down the highway at high speeds, or in cities, where they have a limited amount of room to maneuver. To stay on schedule, drivers must often eat and drink while they drive, plus they also carry smartphones, GPS devices and music players, like everyone else. As one can imagine, being distracted even for a second or two can spell disaster for others on the road.
- Reckless Driving – Some truck accidents occur because drivers simply make a conscious choice to flout the rules of the road. Even in perfect weather, truck drivers sometimes go too fast, or they run red lights. Or they pass illegally or engage in any of a number of other behaviors that put everyone on the road in danger.
- Manufacturing Defects or Poor Maintenance – Many of the accidents involving trucks happen due to defects that happen in the factory, whether it’s a bad part or a mistake in design or anything else. Bad tires, a steering mechanism that fails intermittently, defective axles, bad wiring, bad headlights, and many other defects too often cause the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle and that can lead to a devastating crash. Likewise, too often, trucking companies sometimes try to save a few bucks on maintenance and don’t fix a potential problem with a truck in a timely manner. Skimping on maintenance or negligence on the part of truck mechanics also sometimes leads to serious truck accidents.
How You Can Prevent 18-Wheeler Accidents
The best thing you can do if you want to prevent getting into an accident with a truck is to look at the above accidents and drive defensively. Drivers of any kind of vehicle should make sure they are well-rested before they start a trip and then listen to their bodies when they are starting to feel tired. Also, make sure to have your vehicle serviced before any long trip and keep your vehicle well-maintained, especially the brakes. And finally, understand that all large trucks have a large blind spot. The truck driver can’t see you when you are directly behind it, or if you are along their right side. Also, a large truck with a heavy load needs a lot more room to stop, so stay well in front of the truck and avoid breaking quickly, since the truck won’t be able to stop as quickly.
There are more than a half million truck accidents per year in the United States, and everyone should do their part to prevent them. Most truck drivers are highly trained and extremely safe to drive around, but it only takes one to cause an accident that devastates your life and that of your family. Be safe while driving anywhere, but be extra safe when driving around trucks.