Not many things in the world can be more frightening and deadly as a head-on truck accident. Large commercial and non-commercial large trucks with a gross vehicle weight of more than 10,000 pounds can cause devastating, irreversible damage when they are involved in motor vehicle accidents. When these are head-on collisions, the extra size and weight of the truck make these accidents some of the most dangerous kinds of crashes imaginable.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2019, the number of fatalities in accidents involving one or more large trucks was 5,005; the previous year, it was 5,006. In addition to that, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) claims that 58 percent of all head-on collisions cause fatalities. No one wants to be involved in these kinds of collisions, and even though they do not occur as frequently as other kinds of accidents, they still happen.
How do Head-on Truck Accidents Happen?
These collisions can happen when truck drivers lose control of their vehicles while traveling at high speeds. This can cause drivers to cross over centerlines and small or weak medians. The fast speeds do not allow other vehicles enough time to move out of the way, and the faster the truck is moving, the higher the likelihood of serious injuries and fatalities. Head-on truck collisions can also occur at slower speeds, but it is unlikely that there will be no injuries or property damage. However, what factors contribute to these kinds of accidents?
It is not uncommon to witness a speeding tractor-trailer with a reckless truck driver at its helm. Drivers often ignore speed limits and other rules of the road because they are behind schedule, need to meet deadlines, or are simply being too aggressive. They might be going well over the posted limit and feel no concerns about running through stop signs and red lights. Truck drivers may also drive when fatigued because they are known to work long hours. Falling asleep behind the wheel is another reason why large trucks cross out of their lanes and into oncoming traffic.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol also affects how truck drivers do their jobs and puts other drivers and themselves at risk. Not only does it affect executive function and decision-making, but also it significantly impairs motor control and reaction time. Imagine an inebriated truck driver who is speeding down a highway when the brakes suddenly fail. An inability to respond properly and quickly could be deadly.
What are Other Reasons for Head-on Truck Accidents?
Just like other motorists, truck drivers are susceptible to driver distraction. It is not easy to maintain focus on the road for such long periods, so some distraction is inevitable. Whether truck drivers are checking the GPS, texting, tired, eating, drinking, or simply not paying attention, these actions can lead to head-on collisions. However, some things that can contribute to these accidents are from outside factors. For example, poor weather conditions such as rain, high winds, and snow make it harder to control large trucks. Icy roads can be extremely hazardous, and therefore it is so important for trucks to be driven much slower in these conditions.
Different traffic patterns can also be problematic; truck drivers often drive regular routes and come to know the traffic flows and patterns in certain areas. Unexpected accidents, construction, and other changes can increase the chances for head-on collisions, especially when the truck driver is not informed about the changes in advance.
What are the Most Common Head-on Truck Collision Injuries?
Those who are fortunate enough to escape from a head-on truck collision with minor injuries might experience cuts, broken bones, and burns. These accidents can cause a great deal of broken glass to be spattered around, which can lead to lacerations on different body parts. Broken bones occur when body parts are crushed. If a fire breaks out or chemicals are spilled, victims can end up with some serious burns, which can lead to permanent scarring and disfigurement. Severe cuts and broken bones can take very long to heal and can also cause scars and a loss of function.
Back and spinal cord injuries from head-on truck accidents can lead to chronic pain, paralysis, and a lessened ability to feel sensations or control movements. These can happen when nerves are severed or the spine is compressed during a collision. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can also occur and can range from minor concussions to comas. In a TBI, a person’s brain experiences a jolt or a more severe blow when the head is hit. This impact can make the brain shift back and forth within the skull and can permanently affect brain function. Symptoms can include personality changes, an inability to perform the daily activities of living, emotional distress, and worse effects. This is one injury that is not immediately detectable after it occurs, so it is essential to be evaluated by a doctor after any kind of head-on collision.
How can I Avoid Head-on Collisions with a Truck?
Prevention is key when it comes to avoiding head-on truck collisions. Drivers should avoid staying too close to centerlines and never tailgate other vehicles. Even though the right lane is slower, it makes sense to stay there when there is heavy oncoming traffic and a lot of large trucks on the road. Keeping the headlights on always is also smart, and modern vehicles keep them on at all times for safety reasons. Paying attention to the surroundings is also essential, and avoiding distractions such as food and cellphones keeps drivers safer.
A driver who sees a truck headed for them can try to beep or flash their lights if there is enough time. Otherwise, getting out of the way as fast as possible is paramount. Drivers should look for an exit route and steer toward it, without looking back at the truck. It is better to hit a stationary object instead of something that is moving, so driving into a concrete median is better than a speeding vehicle. Drivers should stay on the tarmac as long as possible and come to a stop when it is safe. Swerving into another lane could be dangerous, but sometimes this is unavoidable.
Who is Liable for Head-on Truck Collisions?
Fatigued truck drivers are one of the main reasons for head-on truck collisions, and if the responsible party is an independent contractor, they may be liable for damages. Trucking companies who employ these drivers can also be held accountable. Sometimes they force their drivers to work longer than the laws allow, pressuring them to complete their trips after their shifts are over. Or, if the company does not maintain the truck by not replacing its brakes when needed or fails to perform routine inspections, these actions could also make them liable.
Companies that load up trucks with cargo can also be negligent if they overload the vehicles or do not secure everything down properly. When trucks are loaded in the wrong ways, they are much more difficult to control. Trucking companies also contract out body shops and other providers whose shoddy work can also contribute to head-on collisions. Dispatchers who pressure drivers to work extra hours can also be part of the problem; drivers who do not want to lose their jobs may do as they are told, even when it is not safe.
Monmouth County Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Help Victims of Head-On Truck Collisions
If you or someone you know was involved in a head-on truck accident, the knowledgeable Monmouth County truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law can help you get the compensation you deserve. We are committed to protecting your rights and will hold the negligent parties accountable for your injuries. For a free consultation, call us at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We are located in Freehold, New Jersey, and help clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn, New York, and New York City.