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Why Are Truck Accidents So Much Worse Than Car Accidents?

Why Are Truck Accidents So Much Worse Than Car Accidents?

It's not just a matter of perception. Large trucks are nearly three times as likely to be involved in fatal accidents as passenger cars, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In the United States, fatal truck accidents constitute around 13 percent of all fatal motor vehicle accidents — even though trucks make up a much smaller proportion of total vehicles on the road.

Simple physics explains why accidents involving trucks tend to have worse outcomes than accidents that only involve smaller vehicles. If you think back to high school physics, you may recall that momentum equals mass times velocity. In other words, the more mass (weight) an object has, the more momentum it builds and the harder it is to stop. Semis and 18-wheelers can weigh up to 50 tons, making small work of a car, or even an SUV weighing 5,000 pounds, in a collision.

The physics of large trucks make many other accident factors worse including:

  • Longer hours behind the wheel: Truck drivers usually get paid per mile or per delivery. This motivates drivers to spend more time driving and to take fewer breaks, even to the point of falsifying their federally-mandated log books. In turn, this means that a greater percentage of truck drivers drive fatigued or distracted.
  • Larger, harder-to-control vehicles: The weight and size of large trucks means that mechanical failures have more serious consequences, and attention lapses are harder to correct.
  • Limited visibility: Truck drivers cannot look over their shoulders to see whether another vehicle is in their blind spot. They must rely on their mirrors and they must look more or less straight down to see if a vehicle is next to them or directly in front of them.
  • Greater impact: Because trucks weigh so much more and ride so much higher than passenger vehicles, they can easily cause much more serious damage to passenger cars, just as higher-riding SUVs and light trucks are more likely kill drivers of other vehicles than sedans and vans that ride closer to the ground.

Truck accidents can cause serious and complicated damage to drivers of other vehicles. If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident, work with a personal injury lawyer experienced with truck accident cases to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.

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