Did you know that more than 100,000 people are injured in trucking accidents each year in the United States? Truck crashes happen 11 times per day, on average, and 4,000 people are killed each year by these terrible collisions. There are many different factors that contribute to trucking accidents, and injury cases often rely on the testimony of witnesses to help determine who is at fault. Thus, if you happen to witness a trucking accident, it's important that you keep a lookout for these potential contributing factors and let law enforcement know what you saw.
Was the truck driver speeding?
It might not always be possible to tell, from your location, whether the truck involved in the accident was speeding. However, if you were in a lane parallel to the truck, traveling at the speed limit, and the truck blew by you, this is a fact you should share with the police. If nothing else, it will prompt them to look more closely into the possibility that speeding contributed to the accident.
Did the truck driver appear to be distracted?
Distracted driving plays a role in many trucking accidents. There have been cases in which truck drivers have gotten into accidents while on their laptops. Texting and driving is also well known to be dangerous. If you spot the driver doing anything concerning in the cab before or after the accident occurs, this is a fact you should share with law enforcement. Don't feel bad about "blowing someone in" -- people are killed when drivers are distracted, and sharing what you saw could save lives in the future.
Did you see any evidence of drug or alcohol use?
Drug use among truck drivers is startlingly high. Though there certainly are drivers who follow the rules, many abuse cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol and other substances. Did the driver stagger or look confused when stepping out of the truck? Did you see him or her seem to nod in and out of consciousness through the window? Maybe some bottles tumbled out of the cab, and the driver hid them before the police showed up. If you saw any signs of drug or alcohol use during, before or after the accident, you absolutely need to report this -- even if you're not positive that what you saw was related to drug use, your report will prompt testing of the driver.
Was the other driver tailgating or driving erratically?
It's important to note that not all trucking accidents are the fault of the truck driver. Sometimes the other driver does something wrong that contributes to the accident, so when you see an accident happening, it's important to observe and report what was happening with that driver, too. Was he or she following closely behind the large truck? Maybe the other driver was dodging around in traffic and passing unsafely? When factors like this contribute to the accident, the courts may decide that the other driver, not the trucker, is liable (or at least partially liable) for the accident. Thus, reporting facts like this helps ensure the right person is named at fault.
Did the other driver appear to be distracted?
Truck drivers are not the only ones known to text or engage in other distracting behaviors while driving. Make sure you tell the police if you saw the other driver on their phone, engaged in an angry argument, or otherwise distracted.
Note that when you witness an accident, it is unlikely that you'll have the time to look for all of the factors above. However, keeping these factors in the back of your mind will help ensure that if you do see an accident, you are paying closer attention to the right information. The police may have additional questions for you following an accident; do your best to answer them honestly. Also, keep in mind that you can report unsafe truck driver practices that you observe even if you don't see them contribute to an accident. You can do so on the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website. For more information, contact a firm such as Gabrielson Law Offices, Ltd.