The ATA (American Trucking Association) reported that in 2020 there were nearly 38 million trucks used for business purposes and almost 4 million Class 8 trucks. A Class 8 truck is defined as having a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR is the maximum weight plus what the truck can carry when fully loaded) that exceeds 33,000 lbs.
The FMCSA notes that in 2019, about 1 percent of all police-reported related large truck crashes (510,000) involved fatalities, with nearly 30% resulting in injuries.
Vehicle Accidents In Yakima, Washington
The greater Yakima area in Washington State has no shortage of dangerous highways and city roads, with certain roads tricky to navigate, even in dry and safe weather conditions. Trucks are particularly difficult to maneuver on Yakima’s city streets. Just a simple right turn requires some trucks to swing wide to avoid colliding with a corner sign or telephone pole, etc. This simple maneuver can lead to an accident, especially for unsuspecting passenger car drivers.
Many accidents that occur on Yakima’s highways involve trucks. Trucks move nearly ¾ of the country’s freight in terms of weight. Certain roads are tricky to navigate, even in dry and safe weather conditions. Interstate 82 (I-82), which connects Seattle with Salt Lake City, is downright perilous when covered in rainwater or ice or when pounded by high winds.
Why Are Truck Accidents Different from Automobile or Passenger Car Accidents?
It is essential to note that truck accidents differ from automobile accidents in a number of ways.
- A typical 18-wheeler traversing a Yakima highway can be as long as seventy feet and have a weight that exceeds 80,000 pounds. Conversely, according to the EPA, the average weight of a car in the US in 2020 was 4,156. If you do the math, some trucks are 20 to 30 times as heavy as the average car. Just the sheer weight difference speaks to why trucking accidents can result in life-changing events.
- Even with specialized licensing and training requirements, maneuvering a large truck is simply not easy, especially when sharing the road with cars that are a fraction of its size.
- Trucks have many ‘no zones’, those areas in which the truck driver has no ability to see. Passenger cars that drive within these ‘no zones’ cannot be seen by the driver, which increases the chances or risk of an accident involving a truck.
- Most fatalities (68%) that involve large truck accidents happen to the occupants of passenger vehicles due to the vulnerability created by their small size. 74% of fatal passenger car accidents involve a large truck of some sort.
- Dangerous or improperly stored cargo may further aggravate a truck accident.
How Do Truck Accidents Happen in Yakima, WA?
Truck accidents can potentially happen in a split second – at any time. The NHTSA & FMCSA’s landmark study – known as the LTCCS or the Large Truck Crash Causation Study cites these factors as those that are commonly associated with truck crashes:
Mechanical Defects or Poor Truck Maintenance
An accident of this sort can happen from brake failure while driving or a tire blowout that creates a situation where the driver loses control. The reality is that large truck owners are obligated to ensure their trucks and vehicles are roadworthy and safe.
A loaded semi-trailer takes up to 40% more distance to stop than a car. This additional required distance may even be larger if the brakes on the vehicle are poorly maintained.
Despite the fact that driving too fast for current roadway conditions is recognized to be a form of aggressive driving, more than half of drivers consider speeding (or even 10 miles beyond a posted speed limit) as both normal and acceptable. Other types of aggressive driving include:
- Unsafe lane changes or other illegal passing, etc.
- Even an interrupted traffic pattern or unfamiliarity with the roadway can create a potentially fatal truck accident when a driver is aggressive.
Driver Fatigue & Distraction
Driver fatigue has several causes but is also the result of long hours of driving without a break. Fatigue can reduce reflex time or even lead to a professional or commercial driver falling asleep while driving. The consequences of fatigue can be devastating, which is why there are federal regulations defining the number of hours (HOS – Hours of Service) truckers are allowed before a mandated rest.
Semi-truck accidents tend to happen on long-haul trips. Lack of sufficient sleep can be compared to the impact of alcohol impairment. The CDC notes that:
- Being awake for 18+ hours translates to a Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) of .05%
- Being awake for 24+ hours is equivalent to a BAC of .10% – which exceeds the legal blood alcohol level of every state.
Driver distraction can also cause truck crashes. Even changing a radio station or checking a cell phone can distract a driver and cause an accident.
Cargo Shifting Can Cause a Jackknife
If the cargo hasn’t been adequately secured or exceeds limits, this can result in a jackknifed trailer or even a truck rollover. This is because large trucks tend to have unique balance requirements that make them especially prone to instability. The sway of the truck (empty or loaded) can act as a magnifier of improper weight distribution.
The guidelines set forth by the FMCSA – the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration govern the manner in which cargo is loaded on commercial trucks. Violations of FMCSA rules that lead to cargo-shift crashes may create a liability for the trucking company if it results in harm.
Drug or Alcohol Use
The use of Illicit Drugs or alcohol among truck drivers is somewhat rare because of the US Department of Transportation’s reoccurring testing programs. However, the use of prescribed medication is both more common and dangerous.
Mishandled road construction or poor maintenance of roadways and signage may contribute to a truck accident in the Yakima, WA area. The liability for roadway mishaps that cause accidents may be the contractor or the government agency responsible.
Involved in a Truck Accident in the Greater Yakima, WA Vicinity?