In 2020, the last year numbers were available through Virginia DMV, Virginia saw 2,356 accidents involving large trucks. Nationwide, about 5,000 people are killed in large truck crashes every year. This accounts for 14 percent of all United States crash fatalities.
Even though safety regulations have increased through the years, there still is no end in sight for crashes involving large trucks and tractor-trailers. That is why it is important to be aware of the common causes of trucking accidents in Virginia to help better prepare you to avoid any potential crashes.
Overwhelmed Truck Drivers
The pandemic has added another issue to an already-concerning situation – an increased workload for America’s truckers.
While the American economy recovers from COVID-19, the amount of cargo shipped by large trucks has increased to the point that it has overwhelmed the trucking industry, which was already responsible for 70 percent of the nation’s cargo. Transport companies have not been able to hire enough new truck drivers to keep up with the booming demand. This means truckers currently at work are most likely handling more deliveries and aiming to reach tighter deadlines than they were in pre-pandemic times.
Bad weather can be a significant hazard for truckers. Not only do drivers have lower visibility in rain, fog and snow, but the roads can become slick and dangerously slippery. An icy or wet road can be difficult for the driver of any vehicle to navigate, but when a driver loses control of a big rig in such conditions, it can destroy anything or anyone who is in its path. Virginia also has laws that specifically deal with drivers who slide on ice and injuries another person. You can read about how this affects your personal injury case here.
High winds and wind gusts are also dangerous for large trucks. In Virginia, big trucks are forbidden in certain areas when winds reach a certain speed. For example, empty tractor-trailers and small six-wheel trucks are not allowed on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel when wind speeds reach 47 miles per hour.
Construction and Blocked Roads
Both truckers and drivers in passenger vehicles must expect surprises on the road, such as a detour due to road construction. There is always a possibility that a detour may prove too narrow for a truck driver to move through or turn. If a truck driver attempts to drive through a detour or construction area, there must be plenty of space for the large vehicle. Be sure to stay clear of trucks near road detours and construction zones because issues commonly occur when a tractor-trailer has to take a detour on a back road.
Trucks with Heavy or Unbalanced Loads
Although trucks have a cargo weight limit under Virginia law, it is important to always err on the side of caution and give a trucker with a wide load extra room. When a truck is overloaded or cargo is not distributed evenly, there is an increased chance of the driver losing control of the vehicle. Make sure you keep a safe distance from loaded trucks.
Poorly Maintained Trucks
Defective design and manufacturing, as well as improper maintenance, may cause trucking equipment to fail. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has strict requirements for every truck driver and trucking company to perform inspections and maintenance on their vehicles, maintenance issues are more often than not hidden from view. Even something that might seem insignificant, like poorly maintained reflective tape, can lead to devastating consequences for other drivers.
Driving Too Closely
It’s important for all drivers to always keep a safe distance between vehicles to allow for safe braking and unexpected actions. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, the stopping distance for a loaded tractor-trailer traveling at 55 mph can take up to 400 feet to stop, compared with 130-140 feet for a passenger vehicle. In poor weather conditions, the braking distance for a truck can be significantly affected by rain, ice, and snow.
Distracted Driving is anything inside or outside a truck cab that takes the driver’s attention away from the road. According to the FMCSA, recent research shows that the odds of being involved in a truck crash or near-crash are 23.2 times greater for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers who text while driving than those who do not. In response, the FMCSA has texting and mobile phone use rules for CMV drivers. CMV drivers are prohibited from texting and driving. They are also restricted from reaching for or holding a mobile phone to conduct voice communication and dialing by pressing more than a single button. CMV drivers who use a mobile phone while driving can only operate a hands-free phone located in close proximity. We take distracted driving very seriously at Curcio Law; we educate the public about these issues and provide distracted driving presentations to newly admitted drivers, students, and organizations to help educate the public about the risks of driving distracted. You can watch one of Tom Curcio’s End Distracted Driving videos here on YouTube.
When To Contact a Virginia Tractor Trailer Accident Attorney
Trucks can cause much more harm than other cars, both physically and financially. Many Virginia truck accident victims undergo a hospital stay, take time off work to heal, and receive follow-up or extended medical care. It’s essential to have a knowledgeable Virginia truck accident attorney on your side, one versed in personal injury, who can help you get the proper compensation for your accident.
If you have been involved in a Virginia trucking accident and have questions or need help determining your legal options, Curcio Law is ready to help. Call or text us at 703-836-3366 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Justin Curcio joined Curcio Law in January 2020. Justin received his J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law in 2015. After passing the Virginia Bar in 2015, Justin was in-house counsel for an insurance defense firm (Allstate/Esurance/Encompass) for over four years before joining Curcio Law. During law school, he worked for the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the law firm of Bartlett, McDonough & Monaghan, LLP. Contact Justin at firstname.lastname@example.org.