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Semi-Trailer Accidents: The Truck Driver Isn’t Usually to Blame

N14 Truck Accident

When it comes to semi-trailer truck/passenger vehicle accidents, the common assumption is that the truck driver was at fault due to fatigue, impairment or inexperience. But a number of studies have revealed that this is not necessarily the case, and truckers are often blamed unfairly for accidents they could not have prevented.

Fault Typically Rests With Motorists, Not Truckers

According to the Los Angeles Times, a 2013 University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) study found that car drivers were either fully or partly at fault in 81 percent of the crashes involving semi-trailer trucks, while truckers were fully or partly to blame only 27 percent of the time.

The study also revealed that cars were the at-fault vehicle in 89 percent of the head-on collisions, 80 percent of the rear-end crashes and 72 percent of the side-swipes. Some of the factors that most often cause accidents involving trucks and cars include overdriving the road conditions, following too closely and failure to stay in the proper lane.

A report compiled by the American Trucking Associations revealed car drivers to be the causal factor in 89 percent of head-on crashes with semi-trailer trucks, 88 percent of opposite-direction side-swipe accidents, 80 percent of rear-end crashes and 72 percent of same-direction side-swipes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Trucks were considered at fault for 98 percent of the accidents that involved backing up.

What Driver Behaviors Cause Accidents With Trucks?

In 1999, a report sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, Office of Motor Carriers, examined the high-risk driving behaviors that result in collisions between truck and car drivers. The unsafe driving acts, or UDAs, of motorists that contribute to car/truck crashes were also identified and ranked in order of frequency and severity:

  1. Inattentive driving, such as texting or talking on a cell phone
  2. Improper merging into traffic, forcing a truck to maneuver or brake quickly
  3. Failure to stop at a stop sign or signal
  4. Not slowing down in a construction zone
  5. Traveling at an unsafe speed or misjudging a truck’s speed
  6. Following a truck too closely
  7. Overdriving weather conditions (fog, rain, haze, bright sun)
  8. Changing lanes abruptly in front of a truck
  9. Driving in a trucker’s blind spots or “no-zones
  10. Attempting a turn without enough headway

Truck Accident Costs Are High

According to the website, the average cost of a fatal car/truck accident exceeds $3 million, and the average cost of a large truck crash not resulting in fatalities is $62,000. The way to lower these costs and save lives is simple: truckers and passenger car drivers need to respect each other, follow the rules of the road and learn to safely share the road with each other.

Image by ER24 EMS.


My daughter and I first consulted with Dan Rosen after a very serious auto accident. Dan had several phone conferences with me, and Tracie was available whenever I called. We would recommend personal injury attorney Dan Rosen to anyone!
Sally from Denver, Colorado

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