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Common Causes of Truck Accidents

Commercial trucks like big rigs and delivery trucks present unique dangers to smaller vehicles and their passengers. Not only do truck drivers need to be aware of the dangers presented by their large and unwieldy vehicles, but other drivers also need to use extra caution in their presence. Seemingly minor driving errors, like failing to signal before passing, can result in catastrophe when an eighteen-wheeler is involved, especially at high speeds.

Following is a discussion of some common situations that can cause or contribute to commercial truck accidents. Speak with a truck accident lawyer or review FindLaw's Truck Accident Overview for more information.

Truck Accidents Caused By Passenger Vehicle Drivers

Drivers of passenger vehicles (primarily cars) often are to blame for traffic accidents with big rigs or other large commercial trucks. The most common type of unsafe act committed by car drivers who get in collisions with large trucks has to do with ignorance of a truck's performance capabilities, such as limits associated with acceleration braking and visibility.

Common unsafe acts committed by car drivers in the vicinity of large trucks, which often result in truck accidents, include:

  • Driving in the "No-Zones" -- the areas behind and beside a commercial truck where the truck driver has limited or zero visibility.
  • Changing lanes abruptly in front of a truck.
  • Maneuvering to the right of a truck that is making a right turn.
  • Misjudging an approaching truck's speed at an intersection, and making a left turn in front of the truck.
  • Merging improperly into traffic, causing a truck to maneuver or brake quickly.
  • Failure to slow down or speed up when a truck begins to change lanes or merge.
  • Unsafe passing, particularly passing with insufficient headway.
  • Passing a truck, then being blown out of position by air turbulence or cross-wind.
  • Pulling into traffic from the roadside in front of a truck without accelerating sufficiently.
  • Driving between large trucks.
  • Abandoning a vehicle in a travel lane, or failing to get a disabled vehicle completely off the highway and onto the shoulder.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) provides an online video discussing the unsafe driving acts of motorists in the vicinity of large trucks.

Truck Accidents Caused by Commercial Truck Drivers

Big rig and other commercial truck drivers are skilled and patient drivers, for the most part. However, in addition to the dangers inherent in the size and weight of the trucks used in commercial transportation and shipping, a number of characteristics inherent in the business can contribute to traffic accidents. These include:

  • Inadequate training as to driving technique, safety concerns, and defensive driving.
  • Systems of compensation that encourage faster vehicle speeds and more hours of consecutive vehicle operation than would normally be advisable.
  • Unrealistic schedules and expectations of trucking companies that encourage drivers to hurry, despite safety risks involved.

See Safety Tips for Truck and Bus Drivers on the FMCSA website to learn more.

If you have been involved in a truck accident with a big rig or other commercial vehicle, you may want to speak with a truck accident lawyer to learn more about this specialized area of law or to file a legal claim.

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