Commercial vehicle accidents pose a growing threat in Louisiana

Serious commercial vehicles crashes are on the rise; sadly, these accidents often harm other drivers and involve preventable errors or outright negligence.

Commercial and industrial operations can create a high risk of accidents. Many people in Lake Charles have heard stories of devastating industrial plant accidents involving explosions, toxins or other breaches that affect both communities and workers. However, many people may overlook a more common risk of living near these operations: commercial vehicle accidents.

Many Lake Charles residents regularly share the roads with heavy equipment, large trucks and other commercial vehicles without worrying about the associated dangers. Unfortunately, statistics show that commercial vehicle accidents are a growing cause for concern.

Staggering accident rates

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2012, there were more than 333,000 large trucks accidents, which only represent a subset of total commercial vehicle accidents. These accidents injured 104,000 people and claimed 3,921 lives. Tragically, these accidents often had the worst consequences for other motorists; in 73 percent of the fatal crashes, the victims were people in other vehicles.

Alarmingly, recent data shows that serious commercial vehicle accidents are only becoming more common. According to CNBC, fatal truck accidents have been increasing since 2009. The shipment of more products and materials as the economy rebounds may be one factor driving this deadly trend. People who live near thriving commercial and industrial operations may be especially at risk for accidents.

Accidents often preventable

Sadly, many commercial vehicle accidents occur because of negligence on the part of drivers or companies. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Large Truck Crash Causation Study sheds light on some of the factors that frequently contribute to these accidents. The study used data from 967 large truck crashes to identify the factors that most often play a part in general commercial vehicle accidents.

The study found that 87.2 percent of the accidents surveyed involved driver errors or reckless decisions. The following factors were among the most common ones:

  • Fatigue or inattention - 13 percent of the accidents were attributed to fatigue. Inattention was identified as a factor in 8.5 percent of accidents.
  • Speeding or aggressive driving - drivers were traveling at unsafe speeds in 22.9 percent of accidents. Aggressive tactics, such as tailgating, contributed to 6.6 percent of accidents.
  • Drug use - prescription drug use was a factor in 26.3 percent of accidents. Over-the-counter drug use played a role in 17.3 percent of accidents.

The LTCCS also found that, out of the 12.8 percent of accidents that did not involve poor driver decisions or reactions, 10 percent involved problems with the vehicle itself. Some of these issues might be attributable to vehicle and parts manufacturers, but many could involve driver or employer negligence. For example, the most common vehicle issue identified was brake failure, which could be caused by improper loading, poor brake maintenance or unsafe driving habits.

Assistance after accidents

These findings suggest that many I-10 heavy equipment accidents and truck accidents may occur because of reckless decisions or outright mistakes on the part of commercial drivers and their employers. When this is the case, accident victims may have legal recourse. Depending on the circumstances, victims in Louisiana may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, wage loss and personal pain and suffering.

Anyone who has suffered injuries because of a commercial vehicle driver's actions should consider speaking to an attorney. An attorney may be able to offer a victim advice on his or her rights and the available legal remedies.

Keywords: truck, accident, injury