Unsafe Truckers: Perception Versus Reality

truck in mirror stock pixlr

The driving public has spoken.  It says that commercial truck drivers are dangerous.

That is the overarching finding of a new survey, the results of which were announced in early October.  The survey, “Collision Course: Commercial Vehicle Driving Safety,” was funded by Verizon Connect, which supplies safety technology to the trucking industry.

Per the survey, drivers overwhelmingly feel that commercial truckers are not safe.  They report this feeling based on what they say they’ve witnessed on the nation’s roads:

  • 81% of non-commercial drivers said they have seen a commercial truck driving dangerously
  • 54% said they’ve actually witnessed an accident involving a big rig

Dangerous Truck Driver Behaviors

More specifically, a significant number of drivers report witnessing these dangerous behaviors by truckers:

  • 69% of drivers witnessed truck drivers speeding
  • 55% of drivers said they’ve seen tractor-trailers making abrupt lane changes
  • 46% of drivers noted times of seeing commercial truckers driving erratically
  • 38% of drivers saw a commercial truck run or nearly run off the road
  • 37% of drivers witnessed 18-wheelers or other commercial trucks taking turns too quickly

And 67% of drivers surveyed said they believe commercial truck drivers are more concerned with their schedule than driving safely.

The company funding the study offers a product that videotapes truckers while they drive.  So they may have a vested interest in highlighting careless behaviors by truckers.

But how well does the public perception of unsafe truck drivers compare to real-life?  Pretty well, by several measures.

Driver Error Leading Cause for Commercial Truck Crashes

In 2007, the federal government released the findings of its Large Truck Crash Causation Study, still today the most comprehensive look at leading cause of catastrophic commercial truck accidents. Each of the 963 commercial truck accidents in the study resulted in either injury or death.

The study concluded that the number on cause of large truck crashes is driver error.  Researchers broke down these errors into four categories, two of which directly relate to what dangerous truck driver behaviors reported in the new study.

One was poor recognition; truck drivers who were inattentive, distracted, or didn’t correctly observe the road conditions for some other reason.  Distracted truck drivers, for example, may inexplicably veer off the roadway, putting other drivers at risk.  They also may not be paying attention to slowing traffic conditions or upcoming exits, and change lanes abruptly to compensate.

Another category of driver error leading to commercial truck crashes is poor decision making.  According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, this includes driving too fast for conditions or following other drivers too closely.  The nearly 70% of drivers who reported speeding truck drivers in the public perception study may have also witnessed these careless acts.

Public perception that truckers are careless and dangerous is also backed up by a more recent effort. In July the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance conducted its annual Operation Safe Driver Week.  Over a seven-day period, the organization worked with law enforcement to reduce large truck crashes with a clamp-down on risky driving behavior.

During the event nearly 1,500 commercial truckers were given tickets for speeding or driving too fast for road conditions. (Another 2,100 were issued warnings.)  Other citations issued to truck drivers among the top 10 issued that week were for:

  • Truckers improperly changing lanes
  • Truckers improperly passing
  • Truckers following too closely
  • Truckers who were inattentive or driving recklessly
  • Truckers who were driving while fatigued

Perception is not always reality.  But when it comes to how the public feels about dangerous truck drivers and how truckers actually behave on the road, it appears perception is awfully close to today’s reality.

If you lost a family member in a crash caused by a commercial truck, an attorney experienced in representing truck accident victims can pursue justice on your behalf.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Articles October 31, 2019

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