As a Los Angeles area resident, you don’t likely need any reminding about how heavy traffic can be. Near our Frost Law Firm, PC office in San Pedro, for example, there are perhaps a bit more tractor-trailers circulating in the area due to our proximity to Terminal Island. This industrial area largely serves as a container terminal.
Trucks regularly come in and out of the area, picking up containers in our city, likely leading to an uptick in tractor-trailer crashes, many of which cause injuries or deaths. This reality leads one to question how many semi-truck accidents happen per year in Los Angeles County, California, at large and nationwide. We’ll sort this out below.
How Common Are Truck Accidents?
Data regarding how many motor vehicle accidents happen in specific portions of Los Angeles County aren’t the easiest to come by. However, statewide statistics suggest that this county is one of the leading ones, perhaps outside of San Francisco, in terms of motor vehicle crashes. A simple online search of news reports reveals that San Pedro sees its fair share of truck accidents. As you might suspect, many of them occur along I-110, I-280, and CA-47.
California Truck Accident Statistics
A review of the most recent truck accident data published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reveals that California certainly fills one of the top ten spots for truck accidents. Of those truck-involved accidents that occur, nearly 3,000 of them result in injuries. There’s an average of 113 annual fatalities that stem from these collisions.
This federal data also shows that there’s been a significant uptick in fatal accidents involving commercial vehicles during the past ten years. These deadly crashes have increased by 42% statewide during that time frame.
National Truck Accident Statistics
There are approximately 388,000 truck accidents in the United States every year. This accounts for 6.5% of all crashes that occur in this country. An estimated 28% (which equates to just under 110,000) result in injuries. Another 11% (which amounts to just over 40,000) are fatal. More than half of these semi-truck crashes kill passenger car occupants instead of truckers.
Causes of Truck Accidents
Some of the leading causes of truck accidents here in San Pedro and throughout the state and country include:
Fatigue or Drowsiness
Truckers are generally either owner-operators or work as direct employees of fleet companies. All commercial carriers are subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations which require them to take rest breaks after a certain amount of time on the road and limit how much they can work in a day or week. However, many truckers violate these regulations.
Although federal regulations require truckers to log their hours electronically, they find ways to get around maintaining accurate records. Also, even though federal trucking regulations specify how truckers must spend their rest periods, such as in the berth of their trucks, it doesn’t define rest as being asleep. This means that you may quickly find yourself sharing the road with sleep-deprived truckers, which could endanger your safety and life.
Some semi-trucks have speed governors that make exceeding a certain pre-programmed speed impossible. However, most trucks don’t have such a regulating system in place. Truckers who operate those 18-wheelers can generally drive as fast as they want, or their vehicle will allow. Speeding is a big issue that results in many annual truck accidents. Truckers tend to speed because:
- Their employer pressures them to complete a delivery by a pre-determined deadline
- Truckers are being paid on a per-load basis instead of per mile, meaning the faster they move, the higher the potential money they can make
- They try to make up for lost time caused by them encountering traffic, road construction, inclement weather, and other issues
Speed is dangerous. The most concerning is that speeding affects braking speed, which is already longer for truckers than passenger car drivers and can also cause semi-truck operators to suddenly lose control over their vehicles.
It matters how cargo is packed into a truck. A small load placed in a large trailer without it being secured in place is likely to move about during a trip. The sudden force of a load shifting forward in the direction of the truck’s cab can easily cause a trucker to lose control of their truck. An unsecured or improperly secured load can also make it take longer for a tractor-trailer to brake and cause any impact with another vehicle to be more forceful, thus causing more significant injuries or increasing the chances of fatalities.
Driving Under the Influence
FMCSA regulations prohibit commercial carriers from consuming alcoholic beverages at least four hours before the start of their shift. Despite this, there are no mandatory alcohol or drug testing requirements truckers must abide by pre-trip.
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) only requires truckers to undergo mandatory drug and alcohol testing after accidents occur. Alcohol tests have to be completed by truckers within eight hours of them receiving a citation for an injury involved or becoming involved in a fatal truck crash. Truckers have as much as 36 hours to complete drug testing in similar situations.
Cell phone use, whether it involves talking on the phone, surfing the internet, or texting and driving, is a big problem. California law prohibits all motorists from using handheld electronic communication devices, including cell phones, while operating a vehicle. Existing laws authorize motorists 18 and over to use mobile phones hands-free, which means via voice or speaker commands here in San Pedro and elsewhere throughout the state.
As you’re likely aware, driving involves far more than just your hands. While state law may prohibit you from handling a device, it doesn’t stop motorists from glancing at a screen on the stand or dashboard as they attempt to read messages or navigate to their next destination. This law also doesn’t account for how distracting conversations or research can be. These tasks can easily take a trucker’s eyes and mind off the road, leading them to cause a catastrophic accident.
Uneven pavement, tar, heavy traffic, road debris, winding roads, and construction zones are just some of the many hazards truckers may encounter as they ride down the road. If tractor-trailer operators are under a lot of pressure to meet a deadline or simply respond to these hazards too late, then they may easily end up causing a crash.
In recent years, global warming has brought many unexpected weather patterns. While it would have been unheard of for San Pedro and the rest of southern California to experience extreme weather years ago, it’s definitely a possibility now. Rain, ice, snow, fog, smog, sun glare, and even wildfire smoke demand truckers slow down and drive more cautiously. Tractor-trailer operators’ failure to do so often results in preventable truck accidents.
Inadequate Truck Maintenance
There’s a multi-point DOT inspection that every trucker is required to perform at the start of their trip. Long-haul truckers must repeat this inspection before they commence different legs of their trip.
These inspections require truckers to visually inspect their semi-trucks’ critical components to ensure it’s safe to operate alongside other vehicles. Some of the different systems truckers must check include the following:
- Steering system, such as the kingpin
- Suspension system, which covers the ball joints and shocks
- Transmission system, such as the clutch
Truckers must also check their tires, including their tractor-trailer’s fifth wheel, under the hood, and the truck itself for fluid levels and any leaks, and verify their lights are functioning, and gauges are on point.
While federal regulations require truckers to perform these inspections, doing so takes time—which 18-wheeler operators often don’t get paid for. While law enforcement can ask for proof of inspection during a traffic stop, truckers often take their chances. They don’t perform these inspections in hopes that they won’t be stopped or cause an accident, leading these records to be subpoenaed in a truck accident case.
Your Options if a Los Angeles Truck Accident Left You Hurt
California is much like every other state in that it allows individuals who’ve suffered harm due to their involvement in a truck accident to file an insurance claim or lawsuit to recover compensation for the damages they suffered. These may include medical expenses, lost wages, burial costs, and future lost earnings.
Recovering this compensation isn’t easy. You must prove that a trucker had a duty of care that they breached, resulting in your injuries or a loved one’s wrongful death. Additionally, you must show a direct connection between that breach and your injuries and that you’ve suffered a quantifiable loss.
Moving quickly to preserve evidence is critical in a semi-truck case. Contact us if you’ve been involved in one of many different semi-truck accidents in Los Angeles County or San Pedro that happen every year. You’ll appreciate the care and attention the attorneys at Frost Law Firm, PC give your case.