The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has compiled data that indicate a rising number of commercial motor vehicle wrecks each year. In 2012, there were nearly 5,000 fatalities, which is a 43 percent increase over truck fatalities in 2009. Illinois was one of ten states that comprised 50 percent of the nation’s trucking accidents.
Driver behaviors increase risks
When a truck driver exceeds the posted speed limit or fails to adjust vehicle speed for adverse conditions, everyone on the roadway is exposed to significant risk. Speeding negatively affects the ability to steer, increases reaction time and extends stopping distance. At 60 miles per hour, an alert driver requires around 300 feet to bring a commercial vehicle to a complete stop. When reaction times are delayed by driving under the influence or distracted driving, the stopping distance often increases by another 200 to 300 feet.
Driving under the influence includes prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as illicit drugs and alcohol. These substances delay reaction times, impair judgment and decrease mental focus, increasing the risk of a dangerous crash.
More than four percent of the truck accident fatalities in 2012 were attributed to driver distraction. Distracted driving involves removing the hands from the wheel, the eyes from the road, or allowing the mind to be focused on something other than the task of driving. Using a handheld device for communication typically involves all three activities, which makes it the most dangerous distracting behavior. A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study reported that a driver who is texting is 23 percent more likely to cause an accident.
Preventative measures create safer roadways
The trucking company has a responsibility to its employees to create and adapt schedules as needed to allow drivers to take regular breaks and appropriate rest time between shifts to avoid fatigue. A work culture that causes a stressful environment for drivers increases the likelihood of driver error, which is one of the leading causes of truck accidents.
Truck maintenance is critical to road safety. Federal law requires the company to inspect vehicles regularly, and the operator must check the vehicle every day to look for issues that need immediate attention. Mechanical failures are both common and preventable.
An individual or family who has suffered an injury or fatality as a result of a tractor-trailer accident may be able to receive compensation with the help of a Chicago Truck Accident Attorney who is familiar with commercial vehicle laws in the state.