For many drivers, the sight of an 18-wheeler in the rearview mirror can be cause for concern. These large vehicles tower over most other cars and trucks and often travel at faster speeds than other traffic on the highway. That concern on the part of drivers may be well-founded; statistics show a real threat from these large trucks on the roadways of Texas. Traffic accidents account for more than 30,000 deaths each year in the U.S. In 2011 (the most recent year for complete statistics), Texas accounted for nearly 10 percent of all traffic fatalities in the country. While the number of traffic deaths has been steadily decreasing throughout the U.S. in recent years, Texas continues to lead the nation in the number of fatal accidents with 3,016 deaths on the road in 2011 alone. During that same year, 18-wheeler semi trucks were involved in 2,343 serious accidents and 289 fatal crashes, nearly 10 percent of all traffic deaths in the state during 2011. Why do 18 wheeler accidents account for so many deaths on the road? A Question of Proportion The sheer size and weight of the typical 18-wheeler vehicle makes it more difficult to stop and increases the force and impact of collisions involving these large trucks. Because 18-wheeler trucks are used to carry freight, they are also prone to shifting loads and uneven distribution of weight that can lead to reduced stability on curving roads or steep inclines. When these factors are combined with high speeds, the results can be deadly for other motorists on the road. The injuries sustained in these accidents can include lost limbs, shattered bones and serious brain trauma. Most truck drivers walk away from collisions with smaller vehicles; the drivers and passengers in those other vehicles, however, are often not so lucky. Those who survive the collision are likely to suffer serious injuries and may feel the effects of the crash for the rest of their lives. Non-Lethal Accidents Even when no fatalities result from 18-wheeler accidents, these large vehicles can have a major impact on traffic. Large trucks can create hazards for motorists that extend far beyond the scene of the accident. In some cases, the freight being hauled by these 18-wheeler trucks can spill onto the road or highway, creating a risk of fire or chemical contamination that requires careful handling by HAZMAT teams and firefighters to protect public safety. Spills of flammable materials or hazardous chemicals may also prompt evacuations of homes located near the accident scene. Critical Impact to Traffic Unlike accidents involving smaller vehicles, 18-wheelers can shut down entire highways for hours or days and create traffic snarls that can seriously affect other drivers. Texas highways have seen numerous accidents involving these large trucks in recent years:
- June 18, 2013 — A tanker accident on Highway 225 in the area of LaPorte, shut down traffic in both directions for a full day while firefighters and first responders worked to burn off propane that had spilled onto the roadway.
- May 28, 2013 – An accident claimed the life of an over-the-road trucker on Interstate 35W in Fort Worth. It is thought that another 18-wheeler may have caused the accident by forcing the vehicle from the road; cleanup took over five hours after the arrival of emergency services.
- June 27, 2012 – Spilled diesel fuel and scattered lumber created dual hazards for first responders on the scene of a flatbed 18-wheeler accident. The rollover took place in Fort Worth on a ramp that leads from I-30 to University Drive; the ramp was shut down for hours as HAZMAT teams worked to remediate the fuel spill.
- February 23, 2012 – An 18-wheeler crash caused by excessive speed shut down the northbound traffic lanes of the Dallas North Tollway for more than seven hours, causing serious delays for many commuters in this Texas city. The 18-wheeler struck an SUV and collided with another vehicle, ultimately landing atop it and crushing it. Both drivers of the smaller vehicles were sent to the hospital with injuries sustained in the crash.
These are not isolated incidents. The travel delays caused by 18-wheeler accidents can cost Texas residents millions of dollars in lost productivity. Worse yet, these accidents often cost lives. Protecting the Legal Rights of Victims The injuries sustained by victims in 18-wheeler accidents often require prolonged stays in the hospital and rehabilitation treatments. Individuals who were injured due to the negligence of an over-the-road trucker should consult an accident attorney as soon as possible after the incident. Truck accident attorneys specialize in protecting the rights of injured accident victims and in obtaining fair compensation for their injuries, medical costs and other damages resulting from the accident. In many cases, a qualified 18-wheeler accident attorney will have extensive experience in handling these types of cases and can negotiate with insurance companies to obtain a settlement without going to court. If the victim has suffered severe injuries or has lost a limb in the accident, however, it may be necessary to pursue compensation through the court system to ensure a fair settlement for these claims. Wrongful death suits should also be handled by an experienced accident attorney to avoid insurance company delays and to protect the legal interests of the survivors. In 2012, 18-wheel trucks were involved in 2,703 serious injury accidents on Texas roads; 389 people lost their lives due to accidents involving these large tractor-trailer vehicles. If you or someone you love is included in these statistics, enlisting the help of a qualified truck accident lawyer can be your best hope for receiving the compensation you deserve for your injuries or losses.