Over-the-road transport is fundamental to the U.S. economy, and Florida is no exception. No matter where you drive in the state, you’ll see big trucks hauling goods from one place to another. Whether you call them semis, big rigs, 18-wheelers, or tractor-trailers, you’ll surely see them when driving any of Florida’s state highways.
That can be a problem for other road users. Truck crashes are some of the most deadly accidents on Florida roads yearly, and it’s usually not the trucker who’s hurt. Let’s break down some of the alarming statistics surrounding truck accidents in Florida, why they are so dangerous, and what you can do if you’ve been hurt by one.
How Common Are Truck Accidents?
Florida is known for having some of the country’s most dangerous roads per capita. In 2020, the most recent year for which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released data, there were 3,331 fatalities on Florida roads. That’s roughly one death for every 6,700 residents. In contrast, California saw 3,847 fatalities with a significantly larger population, leading to one death per 10,450 residents. In other words, Florida faces fatalities rates per capita about 50% higher than California.
Trucks are involved in many of these incidents. According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV) administration, there were 33,166 accidents involving heavy trucks in Florida in 2019. Of those accidents, 1,188 led to minor or non-capacitating injuries, 115 involved incapacitating injuries, and, unfortunately, 25 led to deaths.
What makes these accidents so dangerous? There are several factors in play. Heavy trucks are significantly larger than the average passenger vehicle, making them harder to maneuver or stop in an emergency. That makes it significantly harder for them to avoid accidents, particularly at highway speeds.
Furthermore, the weight and momentum frequently make crashes more deadly. Even the most well-designed passenger vehicle isn’t built to take on a speeding semi-truck. Trucks are more likely to crush or push cars off the road or into traffic during crashes. As a result, victims in the other vehicle are more likely to be seriously injured or killed.
Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents
While there is no data specifically breaking down the causes of truck accidents in Florida, studies have been done on a national level. For example, in 2007, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) performed one of the largest studies ever on the reasons behind truck accidents. According to The Large Truck Crash Causation Study, all crashes were caused by one of three critical factors: driver problems, vehicle performance, or environmental hazards.
Environmental hazards included issues like driving rain or dangerous roads and led to just 3% of all crashes. Meanwhile, vehicle problems, such as poor maintenance by the trucking company, caused 10% of truck crashes. Driver problems were the root of the other 87%.
Because drivers were responsible for so many accidents, the FMCSA broke them down into four general categories:
Decision: Speeding and Poor Choices
Bad decisions caused 38% of all truck accidents in the study. These errors include basic judgment errors like speeding, driving too fast in poor conditions, tailgating, and other bad behavior on the road. Decision errors underlie many incidents because many truckers are under heavy pressure to make deliveries as quickly as possible. This can lead even seasoned drivers to make poor choices that can be fatal for other road users.
Recognition: Distracted Driving
Recognition errors caused 28% of studied crashes. In general, this describes accidents caused by a driver who did not recognize the risks of a situation. In practice, it refers to a distracted driver. Truckers may be distracted by anything from their phones to mechanical problems in their vehicle.
Non-Performance: Drowsy or Drunk Driving
Non-performance was reported as the cause of 12% of all truck accidents. It covers events where a driver was physically unable to perform necessary tasks. This includes situations where they were too tired to drive and fell asleep at the wheel, were physically impaired by some form of substance use, or had a medical event like a heart attack or seizure that left them unable to control the vehicle. These issues are often caused by trucking companies pushing to keep working despite their health needs.
Performance: Human Error
Performance errors are responsible for the remaining 9% of accidents. They occur when a driver may be able to judge the situation accurately but fails to react accordingly. For instance, a driver who causes an accident because they do not account for the vehicle’s turn radius has committed a performance error. These Florida truck accidents are often caused by trucking companies hiring undertrained drivers and putting them on the road instead of ensuring their skills are adequate.
Holding Trucking Companies Accountable for Accidents
While drivers are technically responsible for 87% of all truck accidents, the blame for those crashes often falls at the feet of unscrupulous trucking companies. While the average person cannot force these businesses to prioritize the safety of other road users, it is possible to hold them accountable for the damage they cause.
This is why the right to file civil claims exists. In Florida, when someone is seriously injured by a truck driver who’s on the clock, they have the right to hold the driver and their employer accountable. You can file a claim against them to seek compensation for your medical bills, lost income, and the costs of repairing your vehicle, among other damages.At the Law Offices of Gomez & Gomez, we specialize in helping accident victims seek justice for their injuries. We have decades of experience with Florida truck accident claims, so we understand how to best pursue the damages you need to recover and return to normal life. Schedule your consultation to discuss your case and learn more about how we can help you.