You’ve been there. More times than you’d like, in fact.
An 18-wheeler, maybe even a double-hitch tractor-trailer, is merging from an on ramp or changing lanes. Or you check your rear view only to spot a big rig barreling down on you from behind, growing ever-larger and seemingly inescapable in your mirror.
If you’ve driven in Virginia, you’ve had your share of scares and near-misses with semis and other large commercial vehicles. But how dangerous are they really?
- A Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer Explains What Evidence Is Needed to Succeed With a Commercial Truck Accident Claim
- Who Could Be Held Liable for Injuries or Deaths Following a Crash With a Tractor-Trailer?
- 10 Leading Causes of Big Rig Wrecks
According to 2018 Virginia Traffic Crash Facts, approximately 2 percent of reported accidents in the state involved commercial vehicles. The report is produced each year by the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Highway Safety Office. “Commercial vehicles” include the semis described above, as well as delivery vans, panel trucks, log haulers and other flatbed rigs.
Two percent doesn’t sound all the worrying, but consider that during 2018,
- A total of 5,025 commercial vehicle crashes occurred in Virginia, and 2,888 of these wrecks resulted in significant property damage.
- People died in 101 fatal crashes involving commercial vehicles on Virginia roads and highways.
- About 80 percent of the individuals killed in those crashes involving commercial vehicles were outside the trucks or vans.
- A total of 2,036 commercial truck accidents in Virginia left people injured.
- The five commercial vehicle driver actions that were most often cited as contributing to or causing crashes were “following too close,” “improper lane change,” “failure to yield,” “improper turn” and “avoiding other vehicle.”
- “Speed too fast” and “ran traffic control” were the sixth and seventh most-frequent negligent or reckless actions by commercial vehicle drivers who crashed.
- Eleven commercial vehicle drivers involved in crashes were found to be under the influence of alcohol at the time of the wreck.
Note, too, that the commercial vehicle category does not include things like construction vehicles, wreckers and farm vehicles. Virginia places those into a separate large trucks category. That group of vehicles was involved in 2,540 crashes, 40 of which resulted in fatalities and 842 of which left people needing medical treatment for injuries.
The reason a commercial vehicle or large truck driver tailgates, makes an unsafe lane change or speeds varies. We know from our decades of experience representing victims of Virginia truck crashes that driver fatigue and distraction often explain (but never excuse) errors. We have also handled personal injury cases in which long-term, uncontrolled health problems caused the truck driver to lose control and crash.
So, the short answer to the question of how worried you should be when encountering big rigs is “quite.” A collision is far from imminent, but thousands of serious wrecks occur, most for reasons that could have been prevented.