Summer is a time when motor vehicle accidents of all types increase, and semi-trucks are no exception. The period from Memorial Day to Labor Day has even earned the informal title of the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer, as fatal car accidents for teens increase significantly during this time. Drivers should be aware of the increase in traffic accidents when they hit the road this summer.
Some Reasons for the Increase in Accidents
Semi-truck accidents increase in the summer months for many reasons, but the number one reason is the increase in traffic on the roads. The more traffic there is, the greater the likelihood of being involved in an accident. Over the summer months, families take vacations, people are out and about more for all forms of recreation, and they must often drive to get to where they want to go if no public transport is available. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day are all opportunities for people to drive somewhere to visit friends and family or take a vacation. Semi-truck drivers must navigate through this increased traffic on the highways and deal with tourists who are unfamiliar with local roads.
Inexperienced teen drivers. Teen drivers spend much more time on the roads in summer when they are out of school, and their inexperience makes them a threat to everyone else driving around them. They may misjudge the speed of oncoming traffic, race against friends in another car, or be distracted by passengers. They are also more likely to use a cellphone to text or check social media while driving. Some teens make the unfortunate mistake of partying with friends and then getting behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Teens may not be aware of how long it takes a full loaded semi-truck to come to a halt. If they veer into a truck’s path for any of the above reasons, the truck driver may not be able to stop in time, causing a serious accident.
Summer road construction. Construction is another hazard for semi-trucks in the summer months. Many states and municipalities schedule road projects for the longer, drier days of summer. Altered traffic patterns and narrower lanes are hazardous for semi-trucks to navigate and can cause accidents. Detours in unfamiliar settings can lead to distracted driving as a trucker tries to use navigation assistance to find their way. Construction zones also create traffic jams, and both truckers and drivers of passenger vehicles may exhibit bad driving behaviors borne out of the frustration of sitting in traffic. These include speeding, tailgating, aggressive driving, and even road rage. Any of these behaviors can lead to an accident.
Tire blowouts. Truck tire blowouts increase in the summer months because of the heat of the pavement. Any weakness in a tire’s structure can be exacerbated by heat, and if a semi-truck has a tire blowout on a crowded highway, the results can be disastrous. Semi-truck drivers have a responsibility to perform regular maintenance on their trucks, including tires. Inspections and maintenance must be logged and records kept on file with the trucking company. A tire blowout can also be caused by improper inflation. Underinflated tires can explode in summer conditions of high heat, whereas overinflated tires can blowout from the burden of the excess pressure placed on them. Overloading a truck with too much cargo also creates stress on the tires and can lead to blowouts.
Drowsy driving. Operating a huge semi-truck takes skill and concentration. Driving in hot summer weather can be dehydrating if the truck driver does not take care to avoid it, and dehydration contributes to drowsiness. Studies have shown that driving while fatigued produces the same results as driving while intoxicated; reaction times are slower and judgment is compromised, thereby increasing the risk of an accident. Truck drivers may also take advantage of the longer summer daylight hours to try to stay ahead of delivery deadlines. The number of hours a truck driver can stay on the road before taking a break is strictly regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Recently the FMSCA revised the hours of service rules for truck drivers to allow for extended hours and flexibility, worrying many highway safety groups that fatigue among commercial vehicle drivers would increase even more.
Summer driving and use of alcohol. Alcohol usage is higher in the summer, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol-related deaths from motor vehicle accidents in the summer are almost double those in all the other months combined. This increases the risk for semi-truck drivers of being involved in an accident with a drunk driver. The most dangerous time for driving is from midnight to 3:00 a.m. Although most drivers are not out at those hours, it is not uncommon for semi-truck drivers to be on the road late at night and into the morning as they travel long distances to deliver goods.
Motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians. During the summer months, motorcycle enthusiasts and bicyclists take to the roads, and they are very difficult for drivers in large vehicles to spot. A semi-truck has large blind spots, and motorcycles can easily be overlooked, causing an accident. It is also hard for truck drivers to avoid hitting a bicyclist or pedestrian that appears out of nowhere because of the long stopping distances big trucks require. Motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians are serious summer hazards for semi-truck drivers.
What are Some Common Injuries in Truck Accidents?
The size of the average truck means that an accident is usually a major event affecting multiple vehicles that results in devastating and life-altering personal injury. Some common injuries suffered in truck accidents include the following trauma:
- Broken bones and fractures
- Head, neck, and back injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries including concussions
- Spinal cord injuries including paralysis
- Amputations or dismemberment
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Chemical exposure to hazardous cargo materials
These types of serious injuries require lengthy hospital stays that can generate massive medical bills. The victim may be unable to work while recovering or worse, injuries may prevent a return to their chosen occupation. Rehabilitative therapy may be needed afterward as well. A semi-truck accident often results in fatalities because the average passenger vehicle cannot withstand the impact of a crash with a truck.
What Should I Do if I am Involved in a Truck Accident?
Truck accidents are nothing like accidents between passenger vehicles. Trucking companies have teams of lawyers that investigate accidents with the goal of paying as little as possible to compensate victims of truck accidents. Liability in a truck accident may be unclear even when it is obvious that the accident was caused by the truck driver. This is because there are usually multiple parties involved, including the driver of the truck, the trucking company, and the party that leased the truck. All of them will attempt to pass the blame to the others, making it hard for the average person to file a claim for compensation while trying to recover from their injuries.
When involved in a truck accident, victims should collect as much evidence as possible at the scene. Someone should photograph or make videos of damage to vehicles and property, the road conditions, and skid marks. Also, it is important to get contact information from any eyewitnesses. Victims should not admit fault or talk to any representatives of the trucking company or their insurers. Instead, the victim should contact an experienced truck accident lawyer who will investigate the accident and hold the responsible party accountable.
Monmouth County Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Represent Injured Victims of Truck Accidents
If you or someone you love has been injured in a truck accident, the Monmouth County truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law are available to help. Our experienced lawyers will know how to obtain the maximum amount of compensation available for your case. Families who have lost a loved may file a wrongful death suit. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Marlboro Township, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.