Why Truck Accidents Happen

Large trucking accidents are more common in New York than many people realize, and that’s a concern because these accidents typically involve extremely serious injuries. Many are fatal.

Unfortunately, most truck accidents in our state are the result of negligence by either the truck driver, the trucking company, or the vehicle manufacturer (or some combination thereof).

But exactly which types of negligence cause truck accidents most often? What are the most common reasons for truck accidents, and how many of them are preventable?

To answer that question, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) teamed up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2007 to study the issue of truck crash causation.

The results are telling.

The Most Common Reasons Why Truck Accidents Occur (In Order of Danger)

The following table charts the 20 most common reasons for truck accidents in the United States, as determined by the FMCSA and NHTSA.

In addition to determining the cause of each truck crash and counting the most common risk factors, the agencies also assigned a Relative Risk Importance score to each risk factor.

This score, in the agency’s words, “allows the sorting out of factors into those merely present at the time of the crash and those that increase the risk of having a crash.”

In other words, the Relative Risk Importance score is a way of determining which factors are truly the most dangerous. We’ve sorted the table below by Relative Risk Importance in descending order.

Factors Number of Incidents Percent of Total Relative Risk Importance
Vehicle: Cargo shift 6,000 4% 56.3
Driver: Illness 4,000 3% 34.0
Driver: Made illegal maneuver 13,000 9% 26.4
Driver: Following too close 7,000 5% 22.6
Driver: Inattention 12,000 9% 17.1
Driver: Inadequate surveillance 20,000 14% 9.3
Driver: Fatigue 18,000 13% 8.0
Driver: Traveling too fast for conditions 32,000 23% 7.7
Driver: Internal distraction 3,000 2% 5.8
Driver: Alcohol 1,000 1% 5.3
Driver: External distraction 11,000 8% 5.1
Driver: Felt under work pressure from carrier 16,000 10% 4.7
Driver: Jackknife 7,000 5% 4.7
Vehicle: Brake problems 41,000 29% 2.7
Vehicle: Tire problems 8,000 6% 2.5
Driver: Unfamiliar with roadway 31,000 22% 2.0
Driver: Illegal drugs 3,000 2% 1.8
Environment: Roadway problems 29,000 20% 1.5
Driver: Over-the-counter drug use 25,000 17% 1.3

Truck Driver Negligence

Most of the common reasons for truck accidents boil down to driver negligence. As you can see in the chart above, driver errors — illegal maneuvers, distracted driving, aggressive driving, improper handling, and drug and alcohol use — are all significant risk factors.

Truck drivers have a duty to drive carefully and to obey all applicable traffic laws while behind the wheel. Any breach of that duty may subject the driver to liability for collision.

Employer / Trucking Company Negligence

More often, truck accident claims are made against the trucking company that employs the negligent driver.

The employer is liable for the negligence of its employees while they are acting within the scope of their job duties.

In some cases, it is the employer’s negligence that causes the crash. For example, even though the FMCSA and NHTSA include “felt under work pressure from carrier” as a form of driver negligence, the carriers can be held accountable for creating unreasonable schedules for their drivers, especially if they don’t allow them adequate time for rest.

Indeed, truck driver fatigue has been a persistent problem on U.S. highways for years, often a result of pressure from carriers who set unrealistic schedules for their drivers, preventing them from getting the sleep they need in between shifts. (Note that driver fatigue has one of the highest Relative Risk Importance scores.)

Even driver illness — the second most dangerous risk factor listed above — may be connected to unreasonable pressure from carriers. The FMCSA and NHTSA’s report makes reference to heart attacks and other stress-related health emergencies as a common cause of truck accidents.

If you or your loved has been injured in a truck accident in New York, an experienced Kingston truck accident lawyer at O’Connor and Partners can help you determine whether the carrier might be liable for your losses.

Vehicle Problems & Negligence

Vehicle problems may be the fault of the vehicle designer, manufacturer, the trucking company, a mechanic, the truck driver, or another party.

Truckers and carriers have a duty, for example, to ensure that cargo is properly loaded and secured on trucks, and that the cargo never exceeds the vehicle’s weight limits.

As the federal government’s findings make clear, a cargo shift while the truck is in motion is incredibly dangerous, scoring an astounding Relative Risk Importance score of 56.3 — the highest by far, more than seven times the score assigned to speeding.

Environmental Problems & Negligence

Likewise, some so-called “environmental problems” might ultimately be caused by negligence too. Drivers have a duty, for example, to modify their driving behavior to suit the conditions of the weather and the road.

If the roads themselves are unsuitable, a governmental entity or private third party might be liable for creating dangerous hazards (or for failing to fix them).

Foreign objects in the roadway are a common rollover hazard for large trucks; parties that negligently leave objects in the road may in some cases be liable if an accident ensues.

Schedule a Free Consultation with O’Connor and Partners

If you’ve recently been injured in a truck accident in New York and have questions about your right to compensation, please contact the experienced Kingston truck accident lawyers at O’Connor and Partners right away. You may be entitled to a larger recovery than you realize.

We proudly offer no-cost, no-risk case reviews for the victims of large truck accidents in New York. If you do end up hiring us after the consultation, we will not charge a fee unless we get you money first.

Our firm fights hard to maximize compensation for the clients we represent.

As Kingston truck accident lawyers, we offer our legal services to individuals living in Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Ellenville, the Hudson Valley, New York City, and throughout the Empire State.

If you can’t come to us, we’ll come to you. Just contact us online or call 845-303-8777 to talk with an experienced Kingston truck accident attorney today.

by O'Connor & Partners, PLLC
Last updated on - Originally published on

Posted in: Truck Accidents