When driving, motorists are always taking a risk. You are putting yourself out on the highway, driving around at high speeds in a heavy vehicle made of metal. While you may consider yourself to be a decent and safe driver, there is no predicting how those you share the road will conduct themselves. This is especially true of semi-trucks. Semi-trucks weigh tons and are difficult to maneuver, especially on the many turns of some of our highways. It may come to no shock to know that Tennessee experiences a great amount of truck accidents every year. While often fatal, should those involved survive, the injuries they sustain will likely be severe and life-changing.
Trucking in Tennessee
A report released by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), details new and disturbing statistics concerning semi-truck crash related fatalities. The top 12 states for fatalities caused by trucks include our very own state of Tennessee.
The report shows that in 2020 Tennessee had 2.6 fatal truck crashes for every 100,000 people in the population, and 179 people died in that same year from truck accidents. In total that year, there were 1,119 car accidents, and 1,217 fatalities as per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Since 2009, total truck crash deaths nationwide have increased by 66 percent.
Experts agree that these numbers are truly troubling, and members of Congress and the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) are urging policymakers to advance truck safety reforms.
What are the common causes of truck accidents?
Truck accidents can happen for a multitude of reasons. Truck drivers face different risks than most sedan drivers, due to their long work hours, large vehicles, and often inclement weather conditions. Some of the main causes of truck accidents include:
- Distracted driving. Truckers more than other drivers need to pay attention to the road in front of them. Devastation can occur if they even take their eyes off the road for just a second, whether to look at their phone or something on the side of the road distracts them. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states that if you take your eyes off the road for just five seconds to send a text, you are traveling the length of a football field blindly.
- Driver fatigue. Truck drivers often work long hours, and when they’re driving on a straight highway for hours on end, they may be more likely to doze off or become extremely fatigued. According to the FMCSA, 13% of truck drivers were considered to have been fatigued at the time of their crash.
- Driver inexperience. Thanks to a new driver apprenticeship program, 18-21 year olds are now allowed to drive semi-trucks. Driving a semi-truck is a lot of responsibility, and requires experience and knowledge in order to most safely drive the large vehicle, especially on trickier roads or during inclement weather. Acting correctly under pressure is a part of the job, and we’re not sure a new driver is ready to handle such a responsibility with such a large vehicle.
- Driving drunk. Nobody should be driving under the influence, but this applies especially to semi-truck drivers, who have a 17-ton vehicle to control among other vulnerable motorists. Alcohol reduces the ability to make rational decisions, and decreases hand-eye coordination, and response time. According to the US Department of Transportation, 2.5% of truck drivers were above the legal limit when involved in a fatal crash. However, that figure rises to 3.6% when we examine truck drivers who had been drinking but weren’t above the legal limit.
- Inclement weather. We all understand that the roads are more dangerous when it’s snowing, raining, sleeting, or icy. Many of us may be able to choose to stay indoors during that time, but truckers are out on that road because they have a job to do, rain or shine. Unfortunately, a large semi-truck heading down an icy road is a recipe for disaster. It is extremely dangerous for trucks to be driving in low-visibility conditions, slippery conditions, and high wind conditions.
Truck drivers face the same sort of dangers that we do when we drive, only semi-trucks require more concentration, more control, and more focus in order to maneuver their vehicles safely. Not only do they pose a risk to themselves when they drive poorly or encounter obstacles, but they pose a risk to every driver around them.
What are common truck accident injuries?
In any given traffic accident, you may sustain minor injuries such as cuts, bruises, or sprains; or severe injuries including traumatic brain injuries, injury to your spinal cord, or traumatic amputation. Now, you may walk away from a fender-bender with a sedan, but that same sort of crash with a truck is likely to be a fatal one.
Some of the catastrophic injuries you may suffer from a truck accident include:
- Traumatic brain injury. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) occur when the head is hit with force against or by an object. It causes the brain inside to bounce violently, causing internal bleeding, swelling, and bruising. Traumatic brain injuries can lead to lifelong complications. Symptoms of a TBI include dizziness, periods of unconsciousness, headaches, vision problems, and a ringing in your ears.
- Spinal cord injury. When the spinal cord is damaged, it can affect the entire body because the communication pathway of your central nervous system has been damaged. The brain cannot communicate with the rest of your body. This can lead to full or partial paralysis.
- Traumatic amputation. In severe accidents, your limb may be completely torn or severed from your body at the sight of the crash; or when you are at the hospital, the limb may be too damaged to save. This is what is called a traumatic amputation, and it is a catastrophic injury that changes your life forever, leaving you with lasting complications such as phantom limb and difficulty moving or doing everyday tasks.
- Burn injury. When it comes to severe burns – third, fourth, fifth, and six degree burns–, it is critical to seek immediate medical attention. When your skin is burnt away, it leaves you extremely vulnerable to possibly fatal infections as the skin is the first line of defense for your body’s immune system. The pain of these types of burns is agonizing, and the healing process is slow. It could leave you with permanent nerve and muscle damage, as well as life-long disfiguring scars.
Too often, truck accidents lead to someone’s death, and those are truly tragic incidents. It is clear that semi-trucks, while necessary, present obvious risks, and more care should be taken, and truck reforms should be put into place to make our roads as safe as possible.
Our state sees hundreds of traffic accidents every day, and the more of those accidents we can prevent, the better. Unfortunately, crashes do occur, and when they occur due to someone else’s negligence on the road, then it is important that you do not have to financially pay for your pain, suffering, and treatments. You are already paying for their mistake with physical injuries.
Let our trained and experienced Maryville truck accident lawyers at Shepherd & Long take care of you. We work to ensure that you receive compensation for the injuries you sustained from the crash. To schedule an appointment with an experienced truck accident lawyer, call 865-982-8060, or use our contact page. We’re here to help you find justice.