Truck Accidents in Winter Weather

Driving in the winter can be a challenge for anyone. Colder weather affects motor vehicle performance; rain, haze, snow and sleet may affect visibility; the road itself may present issues like longer brake times, slick surface and an increased likelihood of losing control.

The dangers become obvious after a glance at statistics from the Federal Highway Administration (FWA). According to FWA, of an average of 5,748,000 motor vehicle accidents each year, around 22 percent are weather-related. Of those, 73 percent occur on wet pavement, and 46 percent occur while it is raining. This results in a staggering average of 5,897 fatalities and nearly a half-million injuries per year just in weather-related crashes.

The statistics for large trucks, including semi-trailers and buses, are even more concerning. The average car weighs 5,000 pounds; a fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds. Obviously, it requires great skill to control and stop such a behemoth, especially on wet roads. Additionally, the longer a driver has been on the road, the higher are their chances of being in an accident.

Statistics from Trucks. com show that there are more large trucks on the road now than ever before. They estimate a total of around 11 million registered on the road in 2014, which combined to travel roughly 279 million miles. In 2012, large trucks carried 14.5 million tons of cargo, or about 73 percent of all cargo moved, making them by far the main mode of cargo transportation in the United States.

In all, these statistics illustrate the potential dangers of adverse weather on driving, especially for larger vehicles, which make up a significant portion of traffic on our roads and interstates. In 2014, of around 6 million motor-vehicle accidents in the U.S., 476,000 involved large trucks and buses, including 3,649 that resulted in fatalities.

The costs of these accidents aren’t measured simply in injuries and fatalities, however. The total economic costs of truck accidents, including death, injury and property damage, was $112 billion.

Accidents involving buses and large trucks are generally more complex than others in terms of liability. In many cases, the trucks or buses are owned by companies; thus, liability may spread beyond the individual truck driver to the transport company, which often has a large legal team dedicated to denying or reducing their liability.

All drivers on the road should follow recognized safety tips, especially in the winter months when the roads are more dangerous and more accidents occur. Smart Trucking, a trade site dedicated to the trucking industry, lists several winter safety tips that apply not only to truckers, but to winter drivers in general. They suggest:

• Slow down – In bad conditions it takes longer to slow down and is harder to maintain control at high speeds.
• Increase following distance – If the vehicle in front of you stops quickly, it may take more room to come to a complete stop.
• Don’t drive in a pack – The closer vehicles travel, the more vehicles that may be involved in an accident.
• Check your vehicle – Mechanical issues, including a bad defroster or burned out taillight, can turn catastrophic in bad weather and low visibility.
• Keep a full tank of gas – The extra weight will help stabilize the vehicle.

While there is no way to avoid every accident, following simple tips can prevent most. Even the smallest amount of forethought can make a large difference in adverse weather.

AUTHOR: Michael Guajardo

Copyright Guajardo & Marks, LLP

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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