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Truck Driver Errors as Accident Cause – April 13, 2010

A fatal accident last week on highway 44 has the Missouri State Highway Patrol looking for the driver of a semi truck who may have been involved in the accident. A pickup lost control and ran off the roadway, rolled down an embankment and struck a tree, killing an 18 year old passenger near Eureka, Mo. A witness to the accident told the troopers that they think a semi truck may have cut-off the pick-up in traffic.

While the highway patrol is still investigating, the accident is reminiscent of a report, entitled the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administraion in March of 2006. That report indicated that drivers of large trucks, tractor-trailers, semis and other over-the-road vehicles are ten times more likely to be the cause of the accident than other contributing factors such as road conditions, vehicle performance or weather.

This study was the first nation-wide examination of all pre-crash factors, where previous studies had been focused on data regarding specific crashes or individual causes of crashes. According to the FMCSA Administrator, the study made it clear that the agency needed to spend more time addressing driver behavior, as well as focusing on safety issues related to truck and bus maintenance and other vehicle issues.

The study, conducted with the help of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, found that action or inaction by the driver of either the truck or other vehicle was the critical reason for 88 percent of the crashes. The study investigated a national sample of fatal and injury crashes between April 2001 and December 2003 at 24 sites in 17 states. Each crash involved at least one large truck and resulted in at least one fatality or injury. The total sample of 967 crashes included 1,127 large trucks, 959 non-truck motor vehicles, 251 fatalities, and 1,408 injuries.

According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, truck driver fault was broken down into the following percentages:

Falling asleep – 7%

Heart attack or other physical impairment of ability to act – 4%

Inattention – 6%

Internal distraction – 3%

External distraction – 3%

Inadequate surveillance 12%

Unknown recognition error – 5%

To fast for conditions to be able to respond to unexpected actions of other road users – 9%

Misjudgment of gap or other’s speed – 3%

Following too closely to respond to unexpected actions – 4%

False assumption of other road user’s actions 2%

Illegal maneuver 5%

Inadequate evasive action. E.g. braking only, not braking and steering – 1%

Aggressive driving behavior – 1%

Too fast for curve/turn – 12%

Other decision factors – 1%

Overcompensation – 3%

Failing to control vehicle with skill ordinarily expected – 3%

Unknown driver error – 4%


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