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The dangers of big truck crashes

Texas drivers are all too familiar with what it is like to be in the middle of a long double lane of semitrailer trucks on the freeways. It is frustrating at best and can be catastrophic at worst.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that 11 percent of highway deaths in 2015 were the result of crashes involving a large truck. A total of 3,852 people died in these crashes, 69 percent of whom were passenger car occupants. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration notes that 4,311 large trucks and buses were involved in a fatal crash that same year. This represented an 8 percent increase from 2014.

Where and when big trucks crash

While 30 percent of the fatalities resulted from freeway and interstate crashes, 53 percent occurred on other major roads and 14 percent on more rural roads. The vast majority of fatalities, 83 percent, happened on weekdays. Late afternoon, evening and overnight were the most deadly times, with 58 percent of the fatalities occurring during those hours.

Why big trucks crash

There are many reasons why large trucks crash, but one of the major reasons is driver fatigue. Although the FMCSA regulates the number of hours commercial truck drivers can drive before stopping to rest and/or sleep, many drivers nevertheless choose to ignore these regulations. Some drivers go so far as to falsify their driving logs in order to drive for longer periods than allowed by law.

Another major reason why big trucks crash is that their stopping distance is so much greater than that of a passenger vehicle. After the brakes are applied, a fully loaded truck goes at least 20-40 percent farther before stopping than a car would go. If the road conditions are poor, such as from rain, snow or ice, that stopping distance can increase dramatically. Texas drivers would do well to approach all large trucks cautiously and give them as much stopping room as possible.

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