Commercial trucks are an essential part of Virginia's economy. Thousands of trucks use Virginia roadways annually to transport millions of tons of freight. All of this large-truck traffic can be good for the commonwealth's economy, but it's not better for the safety of other road users.
Recent reports from the Virginia Department of Transportation's (VDOT) traffic crash data reveal a rise in accidents on Virginia roadways involving big rigs. In 2021, 2645 Virginia crashes involved large trucks, an approximate increase of 12 percent from the previous year. You may have heard about this spike in Virginia trucking accidents and wondered what you could do to stay safe. Kalfus & Nachman's nationally recognized award-winning truck accident attorneys in Virginia attempted to answer your question and more in this article. Let's first discuss some grave issues in the trucking industry that tend to cause truck crashes.
Serious Issues in The Trucking Industry Causing Crashes
The number one cause of trucking accidents in Virginia is high truck traffic on its highways. More trucks mean more accidents because they take longer to stop and require more space to maneuver. Interstate 81 (I-81) is the longest in Virginia, carrying an average of 26% trucks, and in some sections near Roanoke and Winchester, it's even 35%. Accident rates in the many areas of I-81 are relatively high compared to statewide averages because of its high truck traffic. At least half of all Virginia college students, their families, and tourists share I-81 with large trucks and other commercial vehicles. As trucks are larger and heavier than most passenger vehicles, they can cause more damage when they collide with other smaller vehicles. Other important concerns with Virginia trucking accidents are highlighted here:
- Pressure on truck drivers to make a quick delivery - Pressure on truck drivers to make fast deliveries is a common cause of Virginia trucking accidents. Even though this may be unsafe, trucking companies often pressure drivers to make deliveries quickly, leading drivers to drive longer and faster than they should. In both cases, it increases the chances of an accident and puts other road users at risk of collisions with these speeding trucks.
- Fatigued truck drivers- According to a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), fatigued truck drivers are responsible for about 30% of all trucking accidents. The reason for this exhaustion is the long hours spent on the road without proper rest. What's scarier is that nearly half of all long-haul drivers were found failing to meet FMCSA requirements for minimum hours behind the wheel per week or month! Truck drivers must have a rest period of at least 10 consecutive hours in any 24 hours.
- Improper maintenance of commercial trucks - Improper maintenance is another major cause of trucking accidents. Commercial trucks are driven for long periods and carry heavy loads, requiring regular inspections and maintenance to ensure their safety and efficiency. It includes regular checks, oil changes, tire rotation, and replacement, as well as other routine maintenance tasks that can help prevent Virginia trucking accidents from happening.
- Unqualified truck drivers- Trucking companies are required by law to provide training for all new hires, but there have been cases where they still hired unqualified drivers because they were cheaper than qualified ones or because they had connections with management at the company (or both). When this happens, it puts everyone else on Virginia's roads at risk--you included!
- Unsafe driving practices by truckers- Another common reason for trucking accidents is unsafe driving practices followed by truckers. Texting while driving, speeding, tailgating, erratic lane changes, drowsy driving, and driving while intoxicated are some dangerous driving behaviors often shown by truck drivers.
How to Safely Share Virginia Roadways with Large Trucks
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) latest report, an estimated 439,206 crashes involved large trucks in 2020. In these collisions, around 146,930 people were hurt and 4,965 killed. The bulk of those killed (3,512 persons) were occupants in other vehicles, accounting for 71% of fatalities in large truck crashes. As vital as it is for large-truck drivers to understand their vehicles and acquire adequate training and certification, other road users must also learn how to navigate around big rigs safely. Here are some tips for safe maneuvering around them:
- Avoiding blind spots is one of the easiest ways to stay safe around large trucks. Before you merge or turn, be mindful of a truck's blind spots, and never assume a truck driver can see you. If you can't see the trucker in his side mirrors, he probably can't, either.
- Don't tailgate. Tailgating is one of the most dangerous things you can do around big rigs. The truck driver cannot see you in their rear-view mirror, so they won't know when you're there unless they turn around or look out of a side window. If you're following too closely behind them, they may not have enough time to react before merging into your lane--or worse yet, hitting your car if they brake suddenly!
- Maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and a truck to react and stop. A good rule of thumb is three seconds: keep track of how many seconds pass between when the truck passes something like a signpost or other marker (like another vehicle) until it passes that same object again; then count off three more seconds before passing your vehicle-and remember to stay within those parameters throughout any given trip.
- Do not cut in front of a truck or make an unsafe maneuver across its path. Always remember that a truck takes far longer to stop than a passenger car.
- Be mindful of a truck making a right turn. Trucks require more space to turn right, sometimes pushing into the left lane. Do not try to move around the truck by squeezing to the right. In addition to this, there is also often more weight being carried by trucks, and therefore, they need more time to slow down before making a turn.
- Practice safe driving and defensive driving. Make sure that your vehicle is in good working order, especially brakes and tires; stay within the speed limit; use turn signals when changing lanes or turning corners; obey traffic signals; don't get distracted by things like cell phones or GPS navigation systems while driving -these are just some of many things that could lead directly into an accident if done incorrectly.
Contact the Right Virginia Truck Accident Attorney for Your Case
There can be multiple parties at-fault in recovering damages in a Virginia trucking accident. The sooner you contact an expert Virginia truck accident lawyer, the easier it will be for the lawyer to investigate the accident, identify all liable parties, collect evidence, bolster your claim and obtain the justice you deserve. Watch this video by Virginia's top-rated personal injury attorney Paul Hernandez to learn how to hire an experienced truck accident attorney in Virginia without any upfront costs.
Kalfus & Nachman's qualified personal injury attorneys know how important it is for you to work with a professional who knows how to handle difficult situations like these, and we want you to feel comfortable coming straight to us for answers about your case. If you live in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Roanoke, Newport News, Hampton, or Portsmouth areas and have been injured as a result of someone else's negligence in a truck accident, call us for a free consultation today: 855-880-8163