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90% of truck accidents caused by human error and are entirely preventable

Written by Steve Gursten Posted July 3rd, 2013

Did you know that 90% of all truck accidents share a common cause? That common cause is human error.

And the vast majority of truck accidents are therefore, entirely preventable.

Here are a few interesting statistics to consider as to what causes truck accidents today:

Almost 90 percent of all truck accidents are caused by human errors, according to recent study from Volvo: European Accident Research and Safety Report 2013.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean the truck driver is at fault. In fact, many of the tractor trailer wrecks I litigate are for injured truck drivers caused by another driver’s all too human error.

The 90% statistic encompasses everyone on the road:  Truck drivers, passenger vehicle occupants, bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.

What this means is that if everybody (not just truck drivers) paid a little more attention, took the proper safety precautions and obeyed traffic and safety regulations, hundreds of thousands of truck accidents could be avoided.

In fact, some estimates conclude that if human error could be eliminated altogether, about 450,000 truck crashes a year could be prevented, according to the Volvo report.  That would translate into 4,500 lives saved each year from truck wrecks.  It also means about 117,000 people would not be injured.

This is another reason why both myself and the other founding members of the Truck Attorneys Roundtable have such high hopes for a safer future of driverless cars. It would likely prevent most truck crashes caused today and also solve a serious truck driver shortage crisis that exists within the transportation industry.

Because 90% of truck accidents are caused by human error, does mean that 10% are not? There will always be accidents that are, well, truly accidents.  These are events caused by forces out of our control. Animals, debris in the road, a dangerous hidden condition of the road, and  weather can cause crashes.

However, most truck drivers who are experienced know that bad weather should never be a cause of a truck wreck, because they know they should not be driving in dangerous inclement weather. And if they must, most states have CDL driver manuals that require drivers to reduce speed by two-thirds in bad weather conditions such as rain and snow.

Equipment failure plays a large role in many of my own cases. Many truck crashes are caused by  blown steer tires, which are a direct result of improper tire maintenance by the company. Here’s a recent post about the federal regulation for truck tires and maintenance. As a lawyer, I would classify equipment failure as a human problem because a semi-truck was poorly inspected and maintained, is not a true accident.  It derived from human error, whether improperly maintained or where a pre-trip inspection was skipped.  Often it is both.

Crashes caused by mechanical failure can be devastating; especially when there is a failure of a critical part like brakes, like this California bus company that had bad brakes and killed eight people in a multi-vehicle bus accident.

If the vast majority  of truck accidents are preventable, that gives all of us something that we can work together on so we can save lives and stop people from being needlessly hurt or killed.

Human error.  We can all do better.  Observe safety, do not cut corners, and drive safely.

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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