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Last year, over 3,800 people died as the result of crashes that involved trucks. Just 16 percent of those fatalities were the truck drivers or others inside the trucks. A whopping 69 percent were people in passenger vehicles. Fifteen percent were motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians. These last two groups are at a significant disadvantage in a collision with these giant vehicles.

Despite the technological advances that truck manufacturers have made in crash avoidance features such as roll stability control and electronic stability, as well as increased government regulations on truck drivers and their employers, deadly crashes continue on our roads.

A recently published study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, driver fatigue is a leading cause of truck crashes. While there are regulations mandating how long a driver can be behind the wheel without a break, "short haul" routes are exempted from the federal hours-of-service regulations. These regulations mandate how long drivers can be behind the wheel (11 hours per shift) and how many hours over a week (77 hours) as well as how long they need to rest between shifts.

Drivers who work for interstate carriers can apply for a short-haul exemption if they only drive within 100 miles of their base, they don't drive overnight and their work day is under 12 hours. Short-haul drivers aren't required to record their hours of service.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety researchers found that drivers who had obtained a short-haul exemption were five times more likely to be involved in a crash than those who didn't. Nearly three-fourths of truck crashes studied involved older drivers (those in their 60s or above). This is particularly concerning because seniors are increasingly turning to truck driving as a profession in their retirement years, and there are currently no age limits that trucking companies can enforce.

If you or a loved one is involved in a crash with a truck, it's essential to determine all of the contributing factors and which ones the trucking company may have been responsible for. A company that allows its drivers to exceed hours-of-service limits, doesn't keep its trucks in good repair or hires a driver who's not capable of safely doing the job can be held liable if the driver is involved in an accident where others are injured or killed. An attorney can help victims of traffic accidents determine who to name as defendants.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Loss Data Institute, "Safety defects and long hours contribute to large truck crashes," Dec. 08, 2016

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