Because of continued changes in technology, the latest craze is all about self-driving cars. Predictably, the experts say the end of driving by humans is near. And of course there will be no more accidents. But just how realistic are either of these most recent tales of the future?
So Will Self-Driving Cars End All Accidents
Not surprisingly, distracted driving remains the main cause of fatal car accidents. Because 90% of accidents result from human error, self-driving cars could potentially solve this problem. However, driving habits take time to change. In addition, young drivers want the freedom and thrill of actually driving. So do some of us older folks.
Here is the problem. As long as both self-driving and human-driven cars on the road, the problem will continue. Hence, the human factor is still there. Maybe there will be fewer crashes based on more self-driving cars. Only time will tell.
Other Safety Issues
While car driving may be safer, what if passengers feel safer and stop using their seat belts? In addition, pedestrians may rely on safety technology and take more chances. After all, they think the vehicle’s computers will stop the car and save them. Like I taught my children when they started driving, trust your own instincts. And always give yourself plenty of time and room in case something on the car fails. Hence the emphasis on mechanical failure. Regardless, this issue will be litigated and regulated because this generation is used to driving on their own. After all, people also did not like mandatory seat belt or child car seat laws. Yet now we know these changes have saved countless lives.
While the future may be bright, we are still on guard for now. So if a human behind the wheel causes you harm, call us for help. While we hope you never need our services, we will be there if you do. You have our word, and we have your back.
While everyone knows about texting and driving, here’s something the phone makers could do.
Texting While Driving Dangers
Because we already know the dangers, this blog won’t remind you of the obvious. And it appears older adults are actually worse than teenagers this time. However, despite new laws and harsher penalties, people still keep texting and driving. Rather, no matter what, we just can’t seem to stop ourselves. So what else is there to do? While there are many ideas out there, here is one that actually would seem to work.
Technology Solutions and “Drivers Mode”
Currently, I own two vehicles. While I still love my 12 year old Lexus, it still has a cassette player. Certainly, it is “old school” but still rides like a dream. And if I have my key on me, it unlocks the doors as I approach. For years, I thought this was pretty fancy stuff. However, I recently bought a new Chevy truck which is pretty amazing. Now, once I plug in my phone, most things are by voice command. Furthermore, the truck resets most functions including BlueTooth and streaming music. So why not set my phone to “drivers mode” that would stop any texting while in motion? After all, technology already prevents other activities in the car. Finally, we may have a solution to stop ourselves.
In addition to serious personal injury claims, our firm also defends DUI charges. As part of that practice, we have learned the many physical and mental divided tasks needed to drive. Consequently, there are studies that show texting is actually more dangerous than driving impaired. While I initially questioned those findings, I now agree. Why? Because someone knows they are not safe, they at least try to focus on driving. However, people texting think they are fine and look away for “just a few seconds.” However, at highway speeds, they can go several hundred yards down the road without looking. And that’s when very bad things can happen. Consequently, lives are changed forever in an instant. Sadly, it’s too late then.
Commercial Truck Accident Liability Insurance | How Much is Needed for Injuries Caused
Whether you drive a car or a big rig, tractor trailer truck, you have to carry liability insurance. It’s the law. The only question is how much. Every state has minimum limits but can vary significantly. For example, here in South Carolina, the minimum amount required is $25,000 / $50,000. In North Carolina, by comparison, the minimum insurance necessary is $30,000 / $60,000. The first figure is how much coverage is available for any one injured party. The second number is how much coverage is available in total, no matter how many individuals are involved.
Semi trucks are heavily regulated by both federal and state laws. Currently, the minimum truck accident liability insurance required for a commercial truck is $750,000. There was a bill introduced by Representative Cartwright seeking to dramatically increase that coverage. If passed, the new minimum limit would be $4.4 million. That is quite an increase which Congressman Cartwright asserts is justified as the current level has not changed in over 34 years. It is expected that such proposal will be fiercely debated by trucking companies and the trucking industry at large. There are interesting arguments on both sides of this issue. Certainly, as tractor trailer accident attorneys, we see the immense harm that an overloaded truck in conjunction with an overly tired driver can cause. In many serious accident cases, there is insufficient insurance coverage available. However, on the other hand, such a dramatic increase in premiums will have the unintended effect of forcing many small trucking companies and/or independent owner/operators out of business altogether. More disturbingly, the fear is that maintenance and other costs will have to be offset to pay for any required increase in insurance. This potential outcome could make the roads even more dangerous with overloaded trucks with less maintenance. There is never an easy answer, but this issue clearly needs to be addressed and intelligently considered. We certainly place our hope and trust in our elected officials to make the best decisions for the right reasons.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Licensed Semi Truck Driver?
The answer will both surprise you. In a recent truck driving school email trying to solicit new semi truck driver recruits, there are ten (10) basic questions answered about getting “your Class A Commercial Drivers License.” Most of the questions deal with the “severe shortage of qualified drivers right now” and the “steady income, excellent job security, flexibility…” However, to show just how easy it is to become a licensed tractor trailer operator, the truck driver training school offers a “structured 3 week, 154 hour schedule, taught Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 5:30 pm and one evening of nighttime driving.” This training school even goes on to openly admit “[w]e want you to pass your CDL test and begin to drive in as short a time as possible.” That’s correct. They want to put commercial truck drivers on the road with the rest of us, perhaps driving an overloaded truck like the one depicted in the photo to the right, “in as short a time as possible.”
This truck driver training facility is correct when it decries a “severe shortage or qualified drivers” but putting unskilled and poorly trained drivers on the highways and interstates is not the answer. One of the most common causes of tractor trailer or semi truck accidents is poor training and supervision. Despite high unemployment among younger workers, there is little interest in driving a truck long distance. The pay is certainly good by comparison, but drivers are on the road and away from friends and family for days, if not weeks, at a time. More seasoned truck drivers will attest to the strain being a “trucker” can have on marriages and relationships. It is also “lonely” on the road, and you can only listen to the same CDs so many times. Consequently, it is expected that the truck driver shortage nationwide will only worsen as older drivers retire or leave the road.
Where does this leave the other driving public? Well, our safety is put at extreme risk when heavy, overloaded trucks are driving down the highway at interstate speeds. Physics come into play, and bad things can happen quickly when loads shift or a driver has to try to stop thousands of pounds to avoid a crash. The answer is fairly straightforward. We need to attract more short haul drivers who can pass their load onto other truckers and get back home to their family and friends. It will certainly require more effort to coordinate schedules, but that’s what computer systems can easily manage. Simply putting more improperly trained and inexperienced drivers on the road is a formula for disaster. We already know where that plan takes us. Innocent lives should be better protected by the trucking industry. If they take risks with our lives, they should be held to account when bad things happen.
Tractor Trailer Accidents from Dangerous Loads
Here in Charlotte, we have two (2) Interstate highways pass through and around our city. I-77 and I-85 are both major road corridors which have thousands of cars and trucks traveling at highway speeds every hour of every day. And with all of that highway traffic and speed brings real danger of semi-truck or tractor trailer accidents. Charlotte semi-truck accidents are on the rise given the growth of our area. Unfortunately, that progress comes at a price. The picture to the right is a perfect example of one of the major causes of tractor trailer accidents here in Charlotte – dangerous, unstable loads. This particular truck was seen and photographed on I-77 near Rock Hill / Fort Mill on its way into Charlotte. Despite the trucking company’s best efforts, there is simply no way to make this load totally safe and secure. No doubt they are trying to make every run count, but that last trailer on the top of the pile is just too unstable to be safe. By the way, this truck was clearly traveling at 60+ mph at the time.
Unforeseen or clearly forseeable
When this semi-truck begins its journey with this type of difficult load, it may be properly loaded and secured. However, unless the destination is just a few miles away, any experienced truck driver will tell you that ALL loads shift during transit. The longer the trip; the more loads shift. And, as we all know from driving on any road, people do crazy things and we have to take evasive action to avoid accidents. The same scenario is true for interstate truckers. Trucks with heavy loads have to brake hard, turn abruptly, and may even have to temporarily leave the roadway to avoid bad drivers. When you and I do it, we may spill our coffee or have items thrust into the floorboard. When big trucks take aggressive, evasive action, loads shift and may even break loose sending thousands of pounds of equipment into innocent cars and people. This is how serious truck accidents occur, and people and families get killed. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Trucking companies like the one pictured above should not try to squeeze every dime out of a run at the driving public’s expense. When they do, they should be held accountable. That’s what our firm does.
We are experienced Charlotte Tractor Trailer Accident Attorneys and would be honored to speak with you if you or your family have been the victim of a dangerous or unstable load accident. Call us today for answers and options. You can reach attorney Robert J Reeves directly at 704-351-7979 or email Robert@RJRlaw.com.
Be Safe. Get Home.
Semi-Truck Accidents Seriously Injure and Kill
Studies conducted by the National Highway and Safety Administration from 2010 reveal that 3,675 people were killed and 80,000 people injured in crashes involving large tractor trailer or semi-trucks. From this figure, approximately 17,000 were children. Children are oftentimes more seriously harmed in semi-truck accidents due to a multitude of reasons but are clearly more vulnerable. Of course, given the physics of a large, multi-ton semi-truck impacting a passenger car, it is amazing that anyone survives this type of crash. Road safety by trucking companies should be followed and placed in the forefront of everything they do. But, despite heavy regulation by federal and state governments, trucking companies still seem to place getting their loads delivered at whatever cost ahead of public safety. Everyday you see large trucks driving too fast with big loads and cutting over lanes in front of other cars and trucks on the road. The causes of these fatal accidents are many, but we see a persistent pattern of negligence.
Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents
The picture to the right is a classic example of overloading and why tractor trailer accidents still occur on our roadways. The load depicted is clearly unsafe and never should have been allowed to leave the terminal. No matter how “secure” in the beginning, an experienced semi-truck driver will tell you ALL loads shift. Braking, turning, and other typical driving maneuvers will make heavy loads unstable and dangerous. If the truck has to take evasive action or a sharp turn, the load will move and cause the driver to lose control. It takes real effort to keep a fully loaded truck on the road. When control is lost, only time and distance will eventually stop the truck. Anything or anyone who gets in the way is just doomed.
Another major cause of tractor trailer accidents is driver fatigue due to long hours on the road and excessive delivery demands. These days, the average age of a semi-truck driver is over 50 years old. Younger people simply do not want to drive trucks. The life of a trucker can be a lonely one. You are gone from friends and family for days or even weeks at a time. In addition, being stuck behind the wheel day after day becomes very boring and monotonous. Semi-truck drivers say they get “stir crazy” even though they are traveling at 60 plus MPH. As a result, there is a real, nationwide driver shortage. Consequently, there are fewer drivers available to deliver more loads which means longer times and distances to get the job done. And tractor trailer trucking companies place more demands on their existing drivers to meet their schedules no matter what.
The final cause of semi-truck accidents we will discuss is improper maintenance on trucks. Given the shortage of drivers, trucking companies use fewer trucks. Semi-trucks are very expensive and have to be in motion to be paying for themselves. Companies still trying to remain profitable have to prolong usage between service rotations. As a result, trucks are going longer before critical updates other than oil changes. Brakes and tires require more time off the road and are costly. While oil changes keep the engine going, brakes and tires keep the truck on the road. Hopefully, as the economy improves, younger drivers will be drawn into the trucking profession. Although it is certainly hard work, the pay is also greatly above average. And with no time to spend it, a person could drive a semi-truck for a few years and really save up some money. It would also help make our roads a little safer as younger drivers can remain alert longer than older truckers. All drivers on the highways just want to get home safely.