According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, annually there are nearly 4,000 people killed and an estimated 95,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks. Not surprisingly, most of those injuries were inflicted upon passenger car motorists and their occupants, and not the truck drivers. In fact, more than 70 percent of those injured in an accident with a large truck – defined as a truck with a gross vehicle weight of greater than 10,000 pounds – were occupants of passenger vehicles. And because of their size, large trucks are more likely to be involved in fatal multiple-vehicle wrecks. Government data shows that 80 percent of all fatal crashes involving large trucks involves multiple vehicles.
Oftentimes, the greatest contributor to a crash is excessive truck speed. Nearly 17 percent of all large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had at least one prior speeding conviction, compared to almost 16 percent of passenger car drivers involved in fatal crashes. Speed is reportedly also a significant factor in determining the severity of crashes. Trucks travelling at speeds above 45 mph were shown to double the risk of a fatal crash. The excessive speed makes it harder for a truck driver to safely reduce speed in adverse conditions or around curves. The unfortunate result is a dangerous rollover. In fact, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, more than 78 percent of rollovers, one of the most common causes of accidents, involve driver error, such as failing to properly reduce speed. Excessive speed is magnified by truck weight, which greatly increases risk levels to other motorists. Road Safe America reports that an 80,000-pound semi-truck travelling 70 mph has the equivalent force of an average passenger car traveling at 361 mph.
Many trucking accidents can be prevented with the use of “speed governors” that are designed to set and limit top speeds trucks can achieve. This enables the truck driver to stop in a reasonable distance if an emergency occurs. And while most large trucks arrive from the factory with a speed governor as standard equipment, many truck companies and individual truckers do not use them. The reason is that trucking companies want to get their deliveries made as quickly as possible. But the speeding problem has become so pervasive that even the American Trucking Association (ATA) – a trucking industry trade group – has acknowledged the dangers of high-speed trucking and has advocated for initiatives to limit the speed at which large trucks can travel.
“For the sake of safety, there is a need to slow down all traffic. The trucking industry is trying to do its part with this initiative,” says Bill Graves, ATA President and CEO. “No vehicle should be capable of operating at excessive speeds on our nation’s highways.”The move, which seeks a 68 mph maximum speed capability for large trucks, represents a major departure from long-standing industry opposition to proposals for mandating built-in speed limits.
If you or a loved one were injured in a truck accident, contact an experienced Colorado truck accident lawyer, who can evaluate your case and help you understand your rights.