Highway Trucking Accidents More Frequent and Fatal in Florida
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Highway Trucking Accidents More Frequent and Fatal in Florida

Highway Trucking Accidents in Florda

Data released by Florida Dept. of Highway Safety shows injuries and fatalities from trucking accidents skew 3X higher than national average

For Immediate Release – 10/14/13 (WEST PALM BEACH, FL) – For many in South Florida, Interstate 95 is a busy, sprawling pipeline for work-week commuters and other motorists. It’s also the lifeline for enormous, 10,000-pound plus commercial freight liners and trailers, and the rest of us need to share the road. But just how safe is this space-sharing arrangement for Florida drivers?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, while only about 2% of all commercial vehicle accidents in the U.S. result in a fatality, nearly 20% result in a fatality, incapacity, or serious injury. Of all highway and surface street trucking accidents, about 75% result in little or no injury, thanks at least in part to “underride guards”, and the fact that many accidents are low-speed collisions in which the truck strikes another vehicle.

Sadly, however, the risk of a fatality occurring as a result of a commercial vehicle collision nationwide more than doubles when a passenger vehicle strikes the tractor or trailer from the rear (Source: http://1.usa.gov/19AGddN).

In Florida, however, those numbers are far more alarming. According to the Traffic Crash Statistics Report for 2010, commissioned by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, while fatalities in overall state-wide vehicle accidents are down from the year before by 4.6%, fatalities resulting from a trucking accident skew higher than the national average at 2.75%, while 59% of accidents involving a truck and trailer resulted in bodily injury or fatality (Source: http://bit.ly/1geYPaH – page 31).

Data on trucking accidents

*Data compiled from a 2006 FMCSA report; source link in this document
**Data compiled from a 2010 FLHSMV report; source link in this document

Large, commercial vehicle accidents can be terrifying. An August 2013 Palm Beach County-area crash involving a tractor trailer and a Palm Tran bus in which 11 passengers were injured suggests sharing the road with these behemoth machines isn’t as safe as we might think (Source: http://bit.ly/1elLpVK).

And the truck drivers themselves can be dangerous and unpredictable. There have been at least two cases in the last two weeks in which a truck driver has struck, hit, injured, or killed motorists who were pulled over on the side of an interstate, and then fled the scene.

These massive collisions occur all over the U.S. A few weeks ago, two colliding tractor-trailers lead to a 41-car pileup in Virginia (Source: http://bit.ly/GZF1HV).

One group of researchers has been quietly releasing national data spanning the last two decades on this very subject of whether commercial trucking vehicle accidents are more or less likely to result in injury, incapacity, or fatality.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in a study appropriated by the Department of Transportation, an estimated 400,000 trucks are involved in motor vehicle accidents each year. That compares to figures released in an earlier 2006 study by the same researchers that shows only about 120,000 were recorded between April 2001 and December 2003 (Source: http://1.usa.gov/1aETwKm).

The FMCSA was organized by the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act in 1999 to study and determine the effects, and causes, of commercial motor vehicle accidents in the U.S.
Underride guards (steel support bars affixed to the back of a tractor trailer) can help reduce the risk of injury to drivers of passenger vehicles when the passenger vehicle rear-ends the tractor trailer squarely (at no angle), so that the force is distributed across the width of the passenger vehicle’s front chassis.

But for eight of the biggest tractor trailer manufacturers for the American market, which account for more than 80% of the trucks on our roads, a recent study found that when a passenger vehicle strikes the guard on any other angle other than head-on (for example, if a driver were to swerve and hit the corner of the trailer’s guard just before impact), even at a low rate of speed (35 MPH), all but one failed safety crash tests designed to ensure the passengers would be unharmed. Here is a video from the authors of that IIHS study. (Source: http://bit.ly/GV70Jq).

VerdictSearch, a research firm that publishes the annual Top Florida Verdicts and Settlements, released its 2012 report this summer. In it, one of Craig Goldenfarb’s motor vehicle accident cases is listed as the 3rd largest settlement for 2012.

Seven out of eight of the top motor vehicle accident cases settled and documented in Top Florida Verdicts 2012, including Mr. Goldenfarb’s case, involved a commercial trucking company as the defendant.

Mr. Goldenfarb’s case involved Stuart Jay Mackinnon, a man traveling to work on Indiantown Road, who was suddenly cut-off by a large semi-tractor driver. The collision caused Mr. Mackinnon to undergo multiple surgeries, and Mr. Goldenfarb and his team worked diligently to secure a $2,010,000 settlement.

“Tractor trailer accidents are particularly devastating not just because the mass of the vehicle is often five times that of a passenger vehicle, or more”, Mr. Goldenfarb says of interstate trucking dangers, “but these days we have to factor unpredictable, variable elements that include time of day, speed, and distracted, or even intoxicated, truck drivers. The dangers have been brought to light recently by the sad case of Vincent Matthews and Mariah King, both victims of a deadly hit-and-run collision involving a truck driver and his vehicle in Port St. Lucie.” Mr. Goldenfarb’s case analysis on this incident is here.

Mr. Goldenfarb points to data compiled and released by FMCSA for large trucking accidents between 1996 and 2001 that shows 2.8% of accidents that occurred in Michigan during that time were attributed to truck drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Source: http://1.usa.gov/17pqj3S).

What can drivers do to protect themselves when sharing the road with large commercial trucks?

  1. Stay Attentive: being aware of your surroundings while on I-95 is critical to avoiding any collision. Avoid a trucker’s “blind spots” on either side of the rear trailer. If at all possible, don’t pass a truck on its passenger side, and avoid “lingering” when passing.
  2. Keep Clear: respecting the tractor trailer’s space is important. Heed the “stay back 50 feet” warnings. In severe rain, fog, or wind, pay special attention and watch out for slow or lane-changing trailers.
  3. Avoid A Rear-Ender: Often, commercial vehicle accidents involve the driver of a tractor trailer rear-ending a passenger vehicle. In slow or stopped traffic, and on busy highways or streets, try to avoid being the vehicle directly in front of a large semi. Stay in the left lane to allow yourself room to swerve out of the path of danger in an emergency.
  4. Pull Off As Far As Possible: If you must pull over, pull as far as possible from the road on the whichever shoulder of the interstate is wider. Engage your emergency lights, even during daylight hours. Be careful if you have to be on the side of the vehicle that is closest to the road – ideally, you will have pulled off on the opposite side.

The Law Offices of Craig Goldenfarb, P.A. is a West Palm Beach personal injury firm specializing in personal injury, nursing home abuse, heart attacks in public places (AED law), and medical and legal malpractice.

Interview Mr. Goldenfarb about the Matthews/King case, or on the general dangers of sharing the road with truck drivers on Interstate I-95.

Media Contact and Inquiries: Tom Copeland, Marketing Director for The Law Offices of Craig Goldenfarb, P.A., (561) 727-3140 or TCopeland@800GOLDLAW.com.