Anyone who has ever felt fear in their heart as a big rig came barreling up behind them on the interstate realizes the dangers these highway behemoths can present.
A fully loaded commercial truck can weigh 80,000 pounds or more. When a car or light truck and an 18-wheeler collide, it can result in fatalities amidst a tangle of metal. Their sheer size and weight tips the scales decidedly in favor of the large trucks when accidents occur.
Under most circumstances, truckers are safe drivers who travel great distances regularly with fewer crash rates than passenger vehicles when compared to the miles driven by both. But when the collisions inevitably happen, statistics show that most fatalities happen to drivers and passengers in the smaller vehicles.
Data from two years ago shows that large truck collisions resulted in 3,602 deaths. Only 16 percent of those who died were in the big rigs. The overwhelming majority — 67 percent — were occupants in the passenger vehicles. Another 15 percent of motorcyclists, bike riders and pedestrians also died in large truck wrecks.
Perhaps the most frightening statistic of all is that 97 percent of fatalities in accidents involving a large truck and smaller vehicle were those in passenger trucks and cars.
Younger truck drivers have a higher collision rate than their older colleagues, both in fatal wrecks and those where nobody died. Research also determined that truck driver fatigue factors into collisions. Truckers driving for longer than eight hours have two times the risk of crashing. Companies place enormous pressure on their drivers to make their routes as fast as possible, despite the drivers' need for sleep and hazards like inclement weather.
Some companies turn a blind eye or even encourage their drivers to fudge the stats on their logbooks, known colloquially as "comic books" since they are so easy to alter.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one to a freeway clash with a commercial truck, it is your right to seek compensation through the California civil court system.
Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, "Large Trucks," accessed Sep. 18, 201