In April of 2008 a semitruck was speeding when it crashed into a Chicago train station. The accident killed two people and injured 21 more. Eleven people were critically wounded. Witnesses say the truck came off the freeway and hit a bus stop before slamming under a train overpass and then crashing up several steps of the train platform escalator.
While trucking accidents only account for one out of every nine traffic accidents as a whole, because of their size and weight, they account for 5,350 fatalities and 133,000 injuries (statistics from 2001). 94% of occupants of the cars and trucks in these accidents are either injured or killed. So as shown by the example of this accident a traffic accident involving a commercial truck can be much more dangerous than a car accident. Today there are over two million more trucks on the road than a decade ago which increases the likelihood of an accident.
There are many reasons why trucking accidents happen and why they are so much worse than the average traffic accident. Their freight can be one reason they are so dangerous. They may be carrying very heavy freight or it could be toxic/hazardous in some way. Truckers also work on deadlines. Like most people on a deadline they work faster to be sure they arrive on time which could result in an accident. Also truckers can get very tired from driving long periods of time. They get stressed and don’t pay enough attention to the road. Also large trucks have blind spots behind and to the sides of them so they can’t see other cars. The truck could also be overloaded. Plus there all the usual reasons for an accident like bad weather or mechanical failure.
In March 2004 an Illinois resident with a Wisconsin CDL caused an accident that killed a family of four. In June 2005 he was sentenced to ten months in prison for fraudulently obtaining a Wisconsin CDL and lying to federal grand jury investigators about it. The investigation had found that the address he used to obtain his Wisconsin CDL was also used by other Illinois residents to do the same. Apparently there were interpreters at the test site that were giving out the answers to the applicants. People without the official training and proper licensing to drive a truck also pose a higher risk for an accident.
One of the greatest factors in truck accidents is that the cars driving around trucks don’t know how a truck can respond to cars, bad weather, poor visibility, acceleration and braking. As a car driver these are some things to consider. Don’t drive in the ‘No-Zones’ where trucks can’t see in the areas behind them and beside them. Do not change lanes quickly in front of a truck. Do not pass a truck unsafely. Don’t drive between large trucks.
Most truck drivers are skilled and patient drivers. The danger of an accident happening is less likely but if one does happen there is a higher likelihood of injury. As a small vehicle driver it is important everyone learn to drive safely around trucks. And as always drive defensively. Courses are offered by the Department of Transportation on driving safely. Consider taking a course and buffing up your driving skills.