Eyes on the Road

MOST ACCIDENTS are preventable, especially when large commercial trucks are involved. Confirming the mantra of safety instructors everywhere, the recently released “Large Truck Causation Study” found that when a truck — rather than a passenger vehicle — was the cause of an accident, driver error was the main culprit nearly 88 percent of the time. Problems with the truck, such as braking capacity, tire or wheel failure, and shifting cargo, were the primary cause in only 10 percent of such accidents.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted the study from 2001 to 2003 as mandated by the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. To gather data, researchers investigated 967 crashes involving fatalities or injuries at 24 regional sites in 17 states. Of the trucks involved, more than 60 percent were tractors pulling a semi-trailer, and 15 percent were single-unit trucks.

Collisions between a truck and a passenger vehicle were most common, accounting for more than one-third of all accidents. In such accidents, the passenger vehicle was determined to be at fault 56 percent of the time.

When the truck was the main factor in the accident, driving out of the lane or off the road caused nearly one-third of the accidents. Losing control of the vehicle — often because of traveling too fast — made up 29 percent. Accidents involving only the truck accounted for more than one-fourth.

To download the report, visit www.fmcsa.dot.gov.