IMPLICATIONS FOR LOUISIANA: STUDY FOCUSES ON SEMI-TRUCK ACCIDENT CAUSES

Commercial-truck accidents that often cause death and severe injury are a major problem in Louisiana. For example, according to the federal government, the state ranked sixth with an annualized rate of 1.9 trucks involved in fatal semi crashes per 1,000 miles of public roads (1996-2000).

The significance of this sixth-place ranking becomes obvious considering that Louisiana is 25th in total population, 23rd in population density and 31st in total area, according to the Internet Public Library. Louisiana has a relatively high concentration of fatal large-truck accidents in relation to its size.

 

Commercial Trucking in Louisiana

Louisiana State University’s Highway Safety Research Group provides related statistics:

  • Large trucks were involved in just over 15 percent of all 2010 Louisiana fatal motor-vehicle accidents.
  • Of 2010 Louisiana fatal truck crashes, more than 30 percent were on interstates.

 

Further, according to the Louisiana Motor Transport Association:

  • Louisiana is home to almost 7,000 trucking companies.
  • Louisiana had more than 61,000 miles of public roads in 2008.
  • Commercial trucks logged an astonishing 6.75 billion miles of travel on Louisiana roads in 2008 alone.
  • Large trucks moved almost one-third of the state’s freight in 1997.
  • Commercial trucking activity in Louisiana significantly involves these industries: residential construction, oil, petroleum products, chemical, manufacturing (wood items and machinery), hospitality and recreation.

 

Commercial trucks pick up freight from Louisiana’s many ocean ports in the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Mississippi River and tributary ports for nationwide distribution. Louisiana ports are among the busiest in the country as sites for receiving and delivering goods and raw materials from and to international cargo ships, and supporting offshore oil and gas production, as well as the fishing industry. These ports are well coordinated with the interstate highway system to move goods and resources across the country quickly.

So, considering Louisiana’s serious concentration of commercial trucking, drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians on Louisiana roadways must be vigilant around semi-truck traffic to avoid dangerous accidents. A recent study sheds some light on factors that contribute to tractor-trailer crashes.

 

The Kansas State Study

At Kansas State University’s Department of Civil Engineering, a professor and graduate student are taking a microscope to recent national and Kansas state truck-accident data in a quest to better understand what factors tend to contribute to such mishaps. The second phase of the research project was released in March 2012, funded by the Mid-America Transportation Center, and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation Research and Innovative Technology Administration.

Ultimately, the researchers hope their findings will enrich truck-driver education and training, and inform trucking safety standards and future legislation, in the quest to reduce the rate and severity of truck crashes.

 

The Findings

The researchers in this phase used truck-accident data to identify “characteristics and contributory causes, as well as identifying factors contributing to increased severity of truck crashes.” The most frequent contributing factors are associated with driver behavior, with the top problems being:

 

  • Not taking reasonable time and giving needed attention to safe truck operation
  • Driving too fast for the conditions
  • Not yielding the right of way
  • Speeding
  • Changing lanes improperly

 

Other important contributing factors:

  • Loose freight
  • Animals
  • Icy roads

 

Some of the top truck-accident features that indicate higher severity are:

  • Trapped drivers
  • Truck damage
  • Truck drivers under the influence of alcohol, speeding or driving aggressively
  • Head-on contact

 

Other interesting findings:

  • Most truck accidents happen in the daytime.
  • Most truck accidents happen in good weather.
  • Most truck accidents happen on weekdays, and between noon and 3 p.m.
  • Most truck accidents happen with middle-aged male truck drivers.
  • Most truck accidents do not happen at intersections, but rather on roads allowing high speeds.

 

The Victims

According to the Kansas State researchers, 10 percent of national traffic deaths in 2009 involved commercial trucks and more than 80 percent of those deaths were not drivers or passengers in the trucks themselves. In other words, when they happen, semi-truck crashes are most dangerous to people in smaller vehicles, on motorcycles and bikes, or even walking or running near a roadway. This is no surprise, considering the obvious disadvantage they have in the face of such large and heavy vehicles traveling at high speeds.

Anyone harmed in a crash with an 18-wheeler should immediately discuss his or her rights and potential legal remedies, like a personal injury lawsuit, with an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney. The lawyer can put in motion an immediate investigation of the incident on the victim’s behalf, and explore who may be potentially responsible for the accident, including the driver, trucking company, manufacturer of defective trucking equipment, negligent mechanic, negligent truck or road maintenance company, and others.

In addition, people who lose loved ones in such accidents should explore whether wrongful death or survival actions may be appropriate.

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