Two people were rushed to the hospital after a milk truck and a semi collided in the early morning hours of Friday, January 6, 2017. According to a report by NBC affiliate WBAL TV 11, the accident occurred on a section of Interstate 95 in Elkridge, which lies southwest of Baltimore in Howard County. The crash led Maryland State Police to close all lanes of I-95 between Routes 100 and 175 for a short time, which caused considerable delays for early morning commuters. All lanes were back open by 7 a.m. after officials cleaned up debris and secured the scene. A police spokesperson stated that the driver of the semi truck was taken to Shock Trauma at the University of Maryland Medical Center with serious injuries. The milk truck driver suffered less severe injuries and was transported by ambulance to Howard County General Hospital.
Authorities have not reported on the details of the crash, but many studies have covered the common causes of truck accidents in Baltimore and around the country. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the US Department of Transportation, recently released its findings in “The Large Truck Crash Causation Study.” The report offers some interesting insights on causation in truck accidents.
The FMCSA analyzed data related to the approximately 120,000 collisions across the country that involved a truck; the relevant time period covered 33 months. A total of 141,000 large trucks were present or in some way contributed to the crashes.
How the FMCSA Defines Causation
All motor vehicle collisions are complex, but they can be even more complicated when trucks are involved. Drivers of these large vehicles must undergo considerable training to obtain the proper credentials, and operating trucks takes a great amount of skill. Even before accounting for weather and road conditions, these factors can cause accidents. Rain, sleet, ice, damaged roadways, and other issues also contribute. For purposes of the study, FMCSA defines causation as all factors that are likely to increase the likelihood that large trucks will be involved in serious collisions.
FMCSA broke down the various factors into Causation Variables, including:
Critical Events: This category includes any incident that positioned a truck or other vehicle on a course that made collision unavoidable. The Critical Event applies to the vehicle that took action that resulted in the crash.
Critical Reasons: There is always a reason behind an accident, even if unintentional. The Critical Reason may be driver error, vehicle defect, or road or weather conditions.
Associated Factors: Any factor that does not fall under a Critical Event or Critical Reason, but that contributed to the collision, falls in this category. Associated Factors may be tied to a driver, a vehicle, or conditions.
Truck-Related Critical Events
From the study data, three themes developed within the Critical Events category covering large trucks:
Improper lane usage, either into a different lane or away from the roadway;
Losing control of the truck for such reasons as speeding, cargo movement, vehicle failure, weather, or road conditions; and,
Rear-end collisions with the vehicle in front of the truck.
Truck Driver-Related Critical Reasons
Vehicle-related factors and environmental conditions made up 13% of the Critical Reasons for truck accidents, with driver reasons amounting to the other 87%. Driver-related issues fell into four groups:
- If the driver was unable to perform due to some impairment, non-performance applies. The job of a truck driver is demanding, making fatigue a common reason for accidents.
Recognition: An inattentive driver may have problems recognizing issues that require action. Distractions due to external influences, such as using a cell phone or mobile device, may lead to recognition issues.
- A driver that takes certain actions based upon a decision, rather than inadvertently, can cause a truck accident. For instance, he or she may be speeding, following another vehicle too closely, or intoxicated. < > When a truck driver performs poorly under the conditions present at the time of the crash, accidents can happen. Panicking in the face of some external issue, overcompensating in response to some factor, or improperly controlling the truck fall into this category.
Improper surveillance of the roadway and conditions;
Feeling pressure from the employer to deliver a load under certain time restrictions;
Not paying proper attention to conditions;
Making an illegal or unsafe maneuver while operating the truck;
Allowing distractions to impact driving skills;
Following too close to the vehicle in front, within the same lane as the truck;
Illegal drugs or alcohol; and,
Operating the truck in a way that results in a “jackknife,” which is the situation where the semi’s trailer skids or speeds to the side of the cab.
While each immediate crash is unique, truck accidents tend to cause much more damage and casualties than cars because they are around 20 times larger and heavier than many other vehicles on the road. If you have been injured in a truck accident, keep in mind that causation can be difficult to prove in court. Hiring the right lawyer to represent your interests is important to ensure you obtain the compensation you deserve under Maryland law.