While truck accidents present serious risks for everyone involved, passenger vehicle occupants are usually at the greatest risk of suffering life-altering or life-threatening injuries. This is especially true in the case of a rear-end truck accident, in which an 18-wheeler or other large commercial truck runs into the back of a much smaller vehicle. Due to their immense size and weight, collisions initiated by large trucks involve an extraordinary amount of force. When one of these trucks rear-ends another vehicle, the occupants of that vehicle are helpless to protect themselves from the extreme forces involved.
In rear-end truck accident cases, victims and their families will usually have a claim against the truck driver or the truck driver’s employer. Rear-end accidents are often the result of driver negligence, and drivers and their employers can be held liable for negligence under Ohio law. But, there are other possibilities as well, and regardless of the type of claim (or claims) an accident victim or family can file, recovering just compensation requires proof of what went wrong and why.
7 Common Causes of Rear-End Truck Accidents
This means that determining the cause of a rear-end truck accident is one of the first steps on the road to financial recovery. Here is an overview of seven common causes of rear-end truck accidents:
1. Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is a common factor in commercial truck accidents. Drivers of 18-wheelers and other large commercial trucks often spend eight hours (or more) a day behind the wheel—and this gets boring. As a result, truck drivers often turn to their phones for entertainment. They call, text, scroll social media, and even watch movies and videos while driving.
Of course, all of these are extremely risky practices. While this is true when driving any vehicle, it is especially true when driving a truck that is up to 80 feet long and weighs up to 80,000 pounds. When truck drivers are distracted, they don’t see what is happening right in front of them, and this frequently leads to rear-end accidents.
2. Drowsy Driving (or Falling Asleep Behind the Wheel)
Drowsy driving is a common factor in rear-end truck accidents as well. As we mentioned already, truck drivers spend their entire workday behind the wheel. They do this for days on end, often well into the night. While federal regulations limit how many hours truckers can drive, the legal limit is still enough for truckers to get tired before the end of their shift, and, unfortunately, truckers (and trucking companies) don’t always follow the law.
Studies have shown that drowsy driving causes visual, manual and cognitive impairments—similar to alcohol intoxication. Additionally, if a truck driver nods off for even a few seconds, the truck can travel hundreds of yards during this time at highway speeds. With these effects in mind, it isn’t hard to see how drowsy driving frequently leads to rear-end truck accidents.
3. Impaired Driving
The dangers of impaired driving are well-known, and these dangers are magnified when the impaired driver is behind the wheel of a large commercial truck. This is why the legal limit for truck drivers in Ohio is 0.04 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC)—just half of the normal legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Yet, impaired driving remains a persistent concern and is a frequent cause of rear-end truck accidents. Driving under the influence of marijuana, over-the-counter sleep medications, prescription medications and other drugs are common factors in these accidents as well.
4. Speeding, Tailgating and Other Traffic Law Violations
When truck drivers exceed the speed limit, their stopping distance increases substantially. This, in turn, increases their risk of causing a rear-end collision. Tailgating presents similar risks, as do other common traffic law violations. While all truck drivers should follow the law and prioritize the safety of other motorists, many make the extremely poor decision not to do so.
For drivers who have the grills of 18-wheelers dominating the view out of their rear-view mirror, there is often little they can do to put themselves in a safer situation. It may not be possible (or safe) to speed up, and the trucker may simply keep pace. While getting over may be an option, it can be hard to see backward when a truck is too close, and this can make it difficult to change lanes safely as well.
5. Truck Overloading
As we mentioned above, while truck driver negligence is a leading cause of rear-end truck accidents, it isn’t the only possible factor. For example, truck overloading is a common factor as well. If a truck is overloaded, this can also increase its stopping distance, and overloading also increases the truck driver’s risk of losing control behind the wheel.
6. Inadequate Truck Maintenance
Inadequate truck maintenance is another non-driver-related factor that also commonly plays a role in rear-end truck accidents. Failure to replace worn brake pads and failure to replace worn tires are two common issues that can also prevent truck drivers from stopping in time to avoid a rear-end collision. Of course, in many cases, driver negligence is also a contributing factor—and tailgating with worn brakes or tires is an extremely dangerous combination.
7. Truck and Component Defects
Along with overloading and inadequate truck maintenance, defects can also lead to non-driver-related accidents. Sometimes, brakes and tires aren’t unsafe because they haven’t been well-maintained but because they were not properly designed or manufactured at the factory. When defects lead to rear-end truck accidents in Ohio, the manufacturer can be held accountable, and, in these cases (like those discussed above), victims and their families will often be entitled to significant financial compensation.
Speak with a Truck Accident Lawyer in Columbus, Ohio
Do you need to know more about filing a claim for a serious or fatal rear-end truck accident in Ohio? If so, we encourage you to contact us promptly. To speak with a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible, please call 888-444-7440 or request a free consultation online now.