Where Are Semi-Truck Accidents Most Common?

The United States relies heavily on the commercial trucking industry to transport food, medicines, medical equipment, and commercial products we use daily, along with delivering our mail and packages. Trucking in the United States is big business. Total revenue of the trucking industry exceeds $791 billion annually, with a total operating revenue of $419 billion. The U.S. Postal Service alone delivers more than 129 billion pieces of mail during the course of a year.

Given the number of semi-trucks traveling throughout the country daily, truck accidents involving them have been steadily increasing, according to the website PolicyAdvice.net, which reports the following:

  • Accidents involving semi-trucks have increased 52 percent year over year since 2009.
  • Semi-truck collisions are the cause of 74 percent of all passenger car fatalities.
  • Tire defects account for 30 percent of all semi-truck accidents, the most common cause of crashes.

Collisions involving semi-trucks and passenger cars are much more severe than car accidents and frequently result in fatalities for the occupants of passenger vehicles. Approximately 130,000 people survive accidents with semi-trucks, but often have catastrophic and life-altering personal injury and permanent conditions, many requiring ongoing medical care.

Where truck accidents most commonly occur may be surprising. The majority of accidents involving semi-trucks take place on rural roads, not busy freeways or congested city streets. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that approximately 57 percent of fatal truck crashes happen on rural roads, as opposed to 25 percent of truck accidents resulting in fatalities on interstate highways.

Why Are Truck Accidents More Prevalent on Rural Roads?

One might assume that with the sheer volume of semi-trucks on major roadways and urban deliveries in high rates of traffic congestion, there would be more common locations to expect an accident. Ironically, these very reasons are why accidents take place less often in these conditions.

When traveling busy interstates and traversing city streets crowded with cars, buses, cyclists, and pedestrians, truck drivers tend to reduce their speed and pay more attention to their surroundings and potential hazards, thereby lessening the risk of an accident. Cities also typically have posted speed limits that are lower for commercial trucks than passenger vehicles. Drivers are more vigilant and operate more safely specifically because there is an increased risk of causing an accident in populated areas and traffic congestion.

Long stretches of rural roads; fewer vehicles and buildings; and dull, predominantly flat and straight roadways can become hypnotic to many drivers, causing them to relax their levels of alertness. Sleep-deprived drivers have a significantly increased chance of falling asleep behind the wheel when driving in rural conditions.

During periods of rural driving, drivers might engage in distracted driving behaviors, such as texting, making phone calls, eating, fiddling with dashboard technology, or even watching a movie on a digital device. When any driver takes their eyes off the road, accidents can ensue in a matter of seconds, but it is especially dangerous in semi-trucks, which require considerably more time and distance to stop.

In addition to driver behaviors or errors, rural roads themselves play a role in accidents. Many rural roads have fewer traffic lights, streetlights, and signs, and are prone to more areas of limited visibility. Rural roads frequently have small or no shoulder areas, may have less maintenance and repairs, and more animals that wander onto the road, all potentially leading to an accident

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), there are also specific times of day associated with more semi-truck accidents in addition to where they occur, as well as when. They found that truck-related accidents are more likely to occur between noon and 3:00 p.m. and that more take place on Thursday than any other day of the week, speculated to be the result of drivers speeding in order to reach their destinations by Friday.

What Are Some Common Causes of Truck Accidents?

Truck accidents can happen for a myriad of reasons, from driver error to inclement roads. Some of the most common causes of accidents include the following:

  • Speeding: Truck drivers are set to strict delivery schedules, often requiring an immense travel distance each day. Road congestion, construction zones, detours, and other factors can slow a truck down and add a significant amount of time to an already tight schedule. Such circumstances often result in drivers increasing their speed to make up lost time. However, the faster a fully loaded semi is traveling, the more distance it needs to come to a complete stop, and that difference multiplies exponentially the faster the truck is traveling. Speed and distance are a significant factor in the likelihood of a rear-end collision, the most common type of semi-truck accident.
  • Longer braking distance: The sheer weight and size of semi-trucks equate to longer slowing and stopping times, which require drivers to keep ample distance from the vehicles traveling in front of it. At 65 miles per hour, a semi requires 500 feet to come to a complete stop, approximately eight times the distance of passenger vehicles. Fully loaded trucks or those with two or three trailers require much more distance. Passenger cars darting in front of trucks put themselves at risk of a catastrophic collision, especially if traffic suddenly slows or an accident happens only a short distance ahead.
  • Impaired driver: As with any driver, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a recipe for disaster, and when the accident involves a semi, fatalities are common. In addition to alcohol, some long-distance drivers use illegal substances or over-the-counter medications designed to keep the user awake for longer periods; however, these medications can also impair the driver as well.
  • Distracted driving: The most common cause of any vehicle accident, by far, is distracted driving, which is responsible for the majority of rear-end collisions. The federal government regulates semi-truck drivers cell phone use, requiring they use hands-free cell phone technology, though not all drivers adhere to the rules. Truck drivers who are texting, using social media or making calls on their cell phone, fiddling with onboard technology or radios, eating, interacting with pets, arguing with others, or any other distraction that takes their eyes off the road can cause a devastating accident in mere seconds.
  • Fatigued driver: The commercial trucking industry is one profession that often requires drivers to remain awake for many hours at a time, but studies have shown that driving while sleep-deprived elicits many of the same behaviors as those driving intoxicated. Drivers who have not slept in over 20 hours are even more impaired than drunk drivers. Sleep-deprivation slows reaction time, reduces focus, affects split-second decision making, and can cause drivers to nod off or drift into other lanes, presenting a deadly situation for other motorists nearby.
  • Unsecured loads: The safety of trucks on the road depends largely on how well the cargo is packed and secured. The cargo’s weight needs to be distributed evenly in order prevent the truck from tipping over or the weight pulling the trailer to the side, particularly when turning or stopping. Cargo being transported in non-enclosed trailers can also fall off a trailer if not secured properly, striking other vehicles or presenting an obstacle in the roadway.
  • Low-filled liquid: Similar to the movement of unsecured cargo, tankers carrying liquids can be especially susceptible to causing accidents if the tanks are not full. Low-filled liquids move and slosh with the movement of the truck and can rush from side to side or front to back, causing the trailer to sway back and forth and potentially tip over, especially on curves or while stopping. If the liquids are gas, oil, or caustic chemicals, an accident can result in explosion, fire, or serious chemical burns.
  • Lack of maintenance: Truck drivers are required to keep their trucks and maintenance in perfect order. Bald tires, faulty brakes, broken lights, and the like can lead to serious accidents. In fact, brake failure accounts for 29 percent of truck accidents, owing to faulty inspection, lack of maintenance, overheating, or condensation.
  • Inadequate training: Some trucking companies can be lax in their driver requirements or training, which can lead to devastating accidents. Although drivers are required to complete a specific number of training hours to gain a commercial driver’s license, trucking companies hiring independent drivers do not always request or review the driver’s logs and completed training hours.


Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Clients Involved in Accidents with Semi-Trucks

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a semi-truck, the experienced Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can help you obtain compensation for your injuries or loss. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.