Alabama has seen its share of serious 18 wheeler accidents.
Those resulting in fatalities or serious injury have led to laws or amendments which seek to reduce the likelihood of these accidents as well as protect the accident victims as well as the truck operators themselves.
If you are involved in an 18 wheeler accident, it can be physically debilitating and cause mental trauma or permanent damage. Consider reaching out to an Alabama accident attorney who has experience in 18 wheeler accidents. There are many factors to consider, many of which are unique to these types of accidents and are covered below in this comprehensive overview of Alabama 18 Wheeler accidents.
Why 18 Wheelers Pose a Serious Threat to Passenger Vehicles on Alabama Highways
The average passenger vehicle weighs 3,500 pounds (1.75 tons) and measures anywhere from 12-18 feet while an 18 wheeler weighs almost 29 times that of an average passenger vehicle, at 80,000 pounds (40 tons), and 53 feet long. The extra length and weight makes a tractor trailer harder to control, when in motion, especially when the weight is increased by hauling a heavy or unbalanced load.
Truck drivers therefore need advanced driving skills. And due to the increased weight and difficulty maneuvering and controlling a large vehicle, it should be no surprise that 18 wheeler truck accidents result in a greater number of fatalities and serious injuries than the average auto accident. In fact the risk of fatality is 75% higher in a serious 18 wheeler accident than a typical passenger vehicle crash in Alabama, according to research done by the Center for Advanced Public Safety* done by the University of Alabama.
The state of Alabama has more than 74,000 miles of public roads and six major interstates which total nearly 1000 miles of potentially high speed truck traffic. This is commonly where most 18 wheeler accidents occur.
First assumptions as to the cause of most serious 18 wheeler accidents blame the truck drivers and, or owner/operators. However, there are many factors than can contribute to any vehicle accident. Understanding the root causes of serious 18 wheeler accidents can help prevent future accidents from occurring.
Below we will outline some of the most common contributing factors to serious 18 wheeler accidents in the state of Alabama such as a trucks’ owner or manager’s negligence, the truck driver themselves, other careless drivers on the road, as well as unsafe road or weather conditions.
We will also specifically outline some key accident data for serious 18 wheeler accidents in Baldwin County and Escambia County.
State of Alabama Common Contributing Factors to Serious 18 Wheeler Accidents
Trucks related faults
Trucks with manufacturing defaults or those which neglect routine maintenance or repairs are more likely to cause accidents than those in top condition. It is the duty of manufacturers to ensure that every truck is thoroughly tested and quality checked as small malfunctions can lead to unnecessary injury and death.
Even upon receiving a thoroughly inspected and tested commercial truck, the owner, manager, or operator must uphold this standard not only for their safety but all drivers who cross their path. Faulty equipment has only been identified as a contributing factor for 3.2% of all serious 18 wheeler accidents between 2010 and 2014. However, heavy truck operators have another safety factor to consider, which is often the item or items they are hauling. Negligence, falling cargo, or shifting loads call all contribute to a serious accident as well.
Drivers in the past were notorious for being overworked or pushing themselves too hard endangering the lives of other drivers on the road. In 2011 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) delivered the final ruling which went into effect nationwide over the next two years, which limits the number of consecutive hours a driver can operate a commercial truck before having to rest. The laws even limit the number of hours per week in total so as to avoid overworking commercial truck operators. However, even with these policies in place across the state of Alabama, fatigue and sleep rank near the top among reasons why truck drivers cause serious accidents. 1 out of every 32 serious 18 wheeler accidents are due to fatigue. This is an extremely important statistic to consider, since fatigue contributes to only 1 in every 242 non-life-threatening tractor trailer accidents in Alabama. Therefore, fatigue is a major contributing factor to the seriousness of injuries sustained.
Surprisingly you might think most serious 18 wheeler accidents occur in the evening or early morning hours. But in actuality the hours of 12pm to 4pm prove most dangerous accounting for over 27% of all serious 18 wheeler accidents.
Road and weather conditions
Wet, slippery, and snowy roads cause trucks, as well as other vehicles to slide off tracks or skid; leading to accidents with other road users or side road objects. Don’t let this assumption fool you into thinking if the weather’s good, you can be less cautious around 18 wheeler traffic. In Alabama, 87% of tractor trailer caused accidents occur during clear or cloudy weather. Poor weather only occurs during 13% of 18 wheeler accidents. What’s even more surprising, weather is even less of a factor in more severe 18 wheeler accidents with 89.5% of incidents occurring during fair conditions.
Reduced road visibility due is common in Alabama both at night and during the day. The majority of Alabama roadways have little shade or barriers to block the bright daytime sun which can momentarily blind drivers to their surroundings. This may very well be a contributing factor to the large number of early afternoon accidents when the sun is at its highest point in the sky.
Visibility at night is also a big problem in Alabama due to the great number of unlit roads, making it difficult to see further ahead and maneuver safely out of harm’s way. 32% more serious 18 wheeler accidents occur on dark, unlit or poorly lit roadways than non-life-threatening accidents. And dark, poorly lit roadway conditions are present in 25% of these serious accidents. Therefore there is a distinct correlation between poor visibility leading to a higher number of accidents and of those accidents a much higher percentage are serious, life-threatening, or deadly.
Poor weather conditions, especially during tropical weather and hurricane season can also increase the danger both truck operators as well as passenger vehicle drivers face on a regular basis. Even on well-known routes, it’s not uncommon for unseen objects or obstructions to cause accidents especially after bad weather rolls through. Over 11% of 18 wheeler accidents in Alabama claim an unseen object or obstruction was the primary contributing circumstance.
18 wheeler trucks use the same roads as other passenger vehicles. Even the most careful truck driver who exercises caution, can still be involved in a serious accident with a reckless driver. Other careless drivers can cause a truck operator to make sudden movements or endanger the lives of other drivers in an attempt to avoid a major catastrophe. In fact over 10% of serious 18 wheeler accidents in Alabama are due to being run off the road or swerving to avoid another vehicle.
Changing lanes and cutting off a tractor trailer without warning, or driving too close cause a great number of unnecessary accidents as well. Taking into consideration that the weight and length of the truck does not allow it to halt or swerve abruptly, an attempt to do so might cause it to overturn, veer off the road or hit other drivers on the road or besides the road. 88% of 18 wheeler accidents where a passenger vehicle was the cause, were due to a collision in traffic or while driving.
Top 4 Causes of 18 Wheeler Accidents in Baldwin and Escambia Counties
We’ve spent a great deal of time covering Alabama and some of the major factors contributing to serious 18 wheeler accidents and injury. Looking at our area locally in Baldwin and Escambia Counties, it is also important to understand the common causes for serious accidents as well since they differ than the statewide data.
Baldwin County in particular covers a large portion of Interstate 10 as well as Interstate 65 heading up towards Atmore, AL. Both highways are heavily utilized by interstate truck traffic heading east from Mississippi or west from Florida and contribute to a significant number of serious 18 wheeler accidents overall.
Collisions with other Vehicles
48% of tractor trailer accidents are caused by an 18 wheeler colliding with other vehicles traveling along the same road. With an average length of 70 to 80 feet and weighing up to 40 tons fully loaded, it is no surprise that some of the primary causes of collisions can include: failure to yield, by either the truck or another vehicle, as well as speeding and following too close. In all instances reaction time is reduced and the likelihood for serious injury is far greater.
In Baldwin and Escambia counties, 12% of all 18 wheeler accidents result in truck rollovers. This occurs when the truck’s center of gravity shifts usually due to an imbalanced or improperly secured load. It may also be due to operator error such as misjudging a turn, stopping distance, or even changing lanes too quickly. This type of accident is dangerous not only because of the damage or after effects which could occur from a fast moving tractor trailer turning over, but also the domino effect which can ensue when other drivers are forced to react to avoid collision with the 18 wheeler or other vehicles on the road. 16.7% of serious 18 wheeler accidents in Escambia and Baldwin counties end in fatality.
The average tractor trailer carries hundreds of gallons of fuel in tanks under its cab. This makes collisions even more dangerous, since there is a higher likelihood they can explode on contact. 11% of serious truck related accidents in Escambia and Baldwin counties involve explosions. Oftentimes, if a truck driver is going too fast for conditions, such as in the rain or in icy weather, this can cause a truck to spin out of control and encounter a side impact which will increase the chances of a fire or explosion. Some trucks also carry loads of flammable materials, such as gasoline or other fuels. These loads are volatile and unstable, and during an accident can easily cause an explosion that can cause serious injury or even death.
Collision with Vehicles from Another Roadway
5.6% of serious 18 wheeler accidents occur during collisions with a vehicle from another roadway, including oncoming traffic and intersections. Improper lane changes, running red lights and running stop signs can all cause this kind of accident.
Many of the causes or results of careless behavior outlined above are certainly avoidable.
Better awareness and being mindful of other drivers by both truck operators as well as drivers of passenger vehicles can help limit the likelihood of a serious accident and in many cases prevent them all together. However, no matter how careful you might be, you cannot account for the actions of others. Take caution when sharing the highway with tractor trailers. If you or a loved one are the unfortunate victims of a serious injury during an 18 wheeler accident in Baldwin County, Escambia County, or Mobile County Alabama, contact Foley accident attorney Noel B. Leonard. Noel handles 18 wheeler accident claims regularly and can help deliver the compensation you deserve. Schedule a consultation with Noel or call 251-943-8638.
*Data curated from the Critical Analysis Reporting Environment courtesy of The Center for Advanced Public Safety.