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Are Fatal Car Accidents with Large Trucks on the Rise in Texas?

Texas roads are getting more dangerous every year. At least one person has died in a Texas car accident every day for the last 21 years. Approximately 11 people per day lost their lives in 2021 on the state’s highways. 

And nothing on the road is more dangerous than a large commercial truck. The number of fatal crashes in Texas involving a commercial rig jumped nearly 19% from 2019 to 2021 and has continued to increase in 2021.

While deadly truck crash numbers are up all over the country, Texas has led the nation in fatalities since 2017. Traffic safety experts are frustrated and trying to find solutions.

Statistics Show Disturbing Rise in Large Truck Fatalities

Texas has been plagued with mostly preventable traffic deaths for more than two decades with no signs of slowing, as these statistics from 2020 demonstrate:

  • Almost 14,000 people were seriously injured on the highway in 2020, despite a 10% decrease in miles traveled from 2019
  • There were two days with 22 traffic crash deaths each
  • One person was killed every two hours and 15 minutes
  • 2020’s total death toll on Texas roadways was the highest since 1984

Fewer people on the road during the pandemic have translated to more fatalities. Nationally, they jumped 18% in the first half of 2020, even though miles traveled dropped by 17%. And one study found that emptier roads increased the percentage of deaths related to speeding.

Another factor working against Texas is the fact that three of the most dangerous U.S. interstates run through it. The heavily congested I-40 saw 9.89 traffic deaths every 100 miles in 2019. Most of the nearly 200 deaths that occurred on I-35 that year were in Texas since the highway passes through Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. And the shortest of the three, I-20, saw 13.52 deaths every 100 miles, partially because it connects major metropolitan areas like Dallas and Atlanta.

What Is Causing So Many Truck Accidents?

Is the rapid increase in commercial truck accidents related to the pandemic? Certainly, but it’s not the only factor behind the trend. 

During the lockdowns, it seemed apparent that less traffic meant fewer fatal accidents. But all those empty roads encouraged drivers to be reckless, with alcohol and drug use, distracted driving and especially speeding all up from previous years. Texas lawmakers have tried to lower the state’s speed limits with little success. 

Texas faces unique challenges contributing to its large truck crash epidemic. While traffic in Texas has returned to pre-pandemic levels, driver recklessness seems worse than ever before. 

“It seems like there is a lot more anger out on the road,” said Lance Simmons, director of engineering and safety operations for TxDOT. And while the state Dept. of Public Safety has a dedicated enforcement team for commercial vehicles, catching speeders is hard since there are no safe places to pull someone over on expressways.

Another factor is the rapid influx of growth in major cities in Texas. More people means more traffic, constant construction and more dangerous roads.

Finally, the Texas trucking industry faces a historic shortage of approximately 80,000 drivers as of last fall. Drivers are clocking longer hours and taking fewer breaks to compensate, and some companies are even offering incentives to speed up and cut corners. Others are hiring inexperienced young drivers.

TxDOT officials are meeting regularly to brainstorm solutions such as improved rest stops and public awareness campaigns. The Biden administration unveiled a new “Trucking Action Plan” earlier this month designed to strengthen the industry. But until those plans can be implemented, too many large truck crashes are sure to continue.

How To Stay Safe Around Large Trucks

As dangerous as large trucks can be, there are several ways you can protect yourself while sharing the road with them.

Remember that commercial rigs have limited maneuverability and need a lot of room to stop. Following these safety rules can help you avoid disaster.

Blind spots: Large trucks have blind spots on all four sides. If you can’t see the driver in his side mirror, he can’t see you. Change lanes or slow down to avoid being in a blind spot. Never pass on downgrades or from the right lane. Never cut a big rig off or tailgate. Your car could slide right under a big truck.

Wide turns: Always assume that a truck will swing wide or start turning from the right or middle lane.

Practice patience: Being stuck behind big trucks can be frustrating, especially when they are going slowly. Refrain from driving aggressively, honking and other road-rage behaviors.

Stay focused: Always pull over if you are tired or distracted. Take regular breaks, so your mind doesn’t wander on the highway.

And, of course, never drive under the influence or without a seatbelt. Most tragic accidents can be avoided with some basic common sense.

Do I Need a Truck Accident Lawyer?

It’s always nice when you can avoid calling law enforcement or seeking legal help after a car accident, but when it comes to large trucks, it’s rare. They can cause much more harm than another car, both physically and financially.

There are several scenarios in which an experienced personal injury attorney is necessary if you hope to be compensated for your accident.

If you have a documented previous injury, your insurance company will likely use it against you and claim that you were already prone to injury before your accident. But Texas law says you can still receive damages with a prior injury. 

Insurance companies say they’re on your side, but in reality, they will probably offer you the lowest settlement that sounds reasonable. Or, they may even deny your claim. An experienced Texas truck accident attorney has the knowledge to push back against insurers.

It’s not always clear who is at fault in an auto accident, even in a large truck versus a car. If the police don’t determine it at the scene, insurance companies will send one of their adjusters to investigate. If they find you at fault and you disagree, a personal injury attorney can ensure you aren’t taken advantage of.

A collision with a large truck will be overwhelming enough. You may be hospitalized for your injuries or need to take time off work. You may suffer mental or emotional trauma. You’ll also have several things to do as quickly as possible, including getting a new car and haggling with insurance. Having a competent lawyer on your side can save you hours of time and mountains of stress.

For decades, the Cochran Firm Texas has fought for truck accident victims’ rights. We have the confidence and experience to pursue your claim until justice is served. If you have questions or would like to sit down for a free consultation, contact us at 1-800-THE-FIRM (1-800-843-3476), via online chat, or use our contact form to get started.

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