In 2020, 4.8% of traffic accidents in New Mexico involved commercial trucks. New Mexico doesn’t document the causes of truck accidents in the state, but the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration does release statistical information about the causes of truck accidents.
Commercial Trucking and Traffic Accidents
Hundreds of thousands of semi-trucks travel through New Mexico every year. New Mexico has a major port of entry from Mexico and sits at the crossroads of I-10, I-25, and I-40.
Yet these trucks only account for a small percentage of accidents in the state. A few reasons commercial trucks don’t frequently get into traffic accidents include:
- Commercial drivers receive more training than other drivers
- Commercial drivers are subject to regular and random drug and alcohol testing
- Semi-trucks undergo federally-mandated maintenance and inspections
As a result, truck drivers are often better equipped to avoid traffic accidents than other drivers.
But truck accidents still happen. The main causes of truck accidents identified by the FMCSA include:
1. Lane Departures
Lane departures happen when a truck moves out of its lane into an occupied lane. These accidents can result from:
- Drivers riding in a truck’s blind spots
- Inattention on the part of the truck driver
- Mechanical failures like blown tires that cause truck drivers to lose control
- Drifting due to truck driver fatigue
When a sideswipe accident happens between automobiles, the occupants might suffer minor injuries, but deaths rarely happen.
By contrast, when a semi-truck sideswipes a car, the car can run under the trailer. So-called underrun accidents often kill or seriously injure automobile occupants.
Truck drivers must meet tight deadlines. Unfortunately, these time constraints can tempt drivers to speed.
Inexperienced truck drivers can also underestimate the risk posed by road and weather conditions. As a result, they might travel too fast when faced with:
- Low visibility
- Slick roads
- Heavy traffic
When truck drivers speed, they risk losing control of their truck or their load. They also decrease their window for making emergency maneuvers to avoid a crash.
When vehicles follow each other too closely, they lose the valuable time needed to stop safely. Tailgating occurs for many reasons, including:
- Aggressive driving
- Road congestion
A safe following distance for a fully loaded semi-truck is much larger than for smaller, lighter vehicles. According to the FMCSA, many truck drivers don’t leave enough space, and this failure leads to rear-end accidents.
4. Driver Fatigue
Driver fatigue results from being on the road for too many hours without taking substantial breaks.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government loosened some rules limiting a driver’s hours of service. This change was meant to keep goods like medicine and essential products flowing during pandemic lockdowns. But trucking companies have taken advantage of the modified rules to leave drivers on the road for longer periods than previously allowed.
5. Driver Inattention
Like all motorists, truck drivers are susceptible to distraction. When drivers become distracted, their reaction time diminishes. Electronic devices, food and drink, and even daydreaming can prevent a driver from keeping their hands, eyes, and mind focused on operating their vehicle.
Causation and Liability for Truck Accidents
According to the FMCSA, truck drivers are responsible for 55.3% of collisions between semi-trucks and passenger vehicles. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the trucking company bears liability for the accident.
To prove liability for a truck accident, an injury lawyer must prove that the trucking company was negligent in loading, driving, maintaining, or repairing its trucks. If the company and its driver exercised reasonable care, the company might escape liability for a resulting accident.
To discuss your truck accident and whether you can pursue compensation for your injuries, contact Hunt Law, a Northern New Mexico personal injury law firm.