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FMCSA Study Reveals Cause of Numerous Truck Accidents

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has undertaken a study that analyzes in detail what causes tractor-trailer accidents. The study, entitled the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, is available to the public on the FMCSA's website.

Study Consists of More Than Two Years of Data from 17 States

The study was mandated in 1999 to determine the causes of, and contributing factors to, trucking accidents in the United States. For more than two years, the FMCSA collected information on more than 967 crashes involving 1,127 trucks and 959 other vehicles. The crashes involved 251 fatalities and 1,408 injuries. There were 24 locations in 17 different states that provided information.

Driver Error Is Biggest Reason

Most accidents were caused by a mistake made by one or more of the drivers involved in the accident. Driver recognition and decision errors for both truck and car drivers were the most frequent types of driver error noted by investigators. Driving too fast for conditions and driving while fatigued were commonly found causes of accidents. Passenger drivers were cited for these errors more often than commercial truck drivers.

Thirty Percent of Truck Accidents Involved Brake Problems

Passenger vehicles had braking problems in only 5 percent of the accidents. The percentage for tractor-trailers was much higher. Truck drivers were cited for brake problems in almost 30 percent of the accidents. The next highest contributor to the crashes was interruption in traffic flow. Change in normal traffic conditions due to construction, prior accidents, rush hour congestion, and other factors appeared in almost 25 percent of two-vehicle crashes.

Roadway and Weather Conditions Also Contribute to Accidents

According to the study, problems with the roadway itself, such as maintenance problems, were found in 16 percent of the two-vehicle crashes. Adverse weather conditions such as snow, ice, rain, and other limitations of visibility were present in almost 13 percent of the studied accidents.

Want to avoid an accident with a tractor-trailer? Your best bet is to make sure you do not cause it and stay far enough away from the tractor-trailer so that if the driver makes a mistake, it does not involve you or your vehicle.