Due to the size of commercial trucks, accidents can pose significant dangers to other motorists and motorcycle riders. However, not all collisions are the same and head-on accidents can be deadly.
Research from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) indicates that in a typical year, head-on collisions account for just three percent of all large truck crashes. By comparison, read-end collisions make up roughly one-quarter of all such incidents.
Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has also reported that accidents involving a large truck are responsible for about 5,000 fatalities each year. While the odds might appear small, that doesn’t mean the consequences aren’t potentially fatal. Head-on collisions involve a strong force of impact as the front ends of two vehicles hit. At high speeds, this frontal impact can be deadly.
Fatalities frequently occur yet, if the victim survives, they often face serious injuries. As a motorist, here’s what you should know to stay safe.
What Is a Head-On Collision?
Also known as a frontal collision, this accident occurs when two vehicles traveling in opposite directions hit each other head on. For both vehicles, the point of impact occurs directly to the front. This dangerous scenario results in a sudden loss of speed, which can lead to a greater force of impact as the two vehicles collide.
As tractor trailer trucks are much bigger and heavier than the typical car, the force exerted during a head-on collision can make these accidents even more deadly.
Why Head-On Truck Accidents Happen
Head-on collisions with a truck driver may happen due to a combination of the factors, including:
- Driving the Wrong Way: On a rural road with worn-away lines, this risk increases. A driver can cross over the line or travel in the wrong direction if they are unfamiliar with the area, under the influence, drowsy or entering a highway on the exit ramp.
- Crossing Over the Center Line: A type of wrong-way incident, a driver may be distracted or over the legal alcohol limit and cross the center line, right into a motorist traveling in the opposite direction. However, this can also happen when a truck driver or motorist is swerving around a pothole or roadkill.
- Incorrect Passing: On a two or multi-lane road, a driver may attempt to pass by going around the double yellow lines. A driver who can’t clearly see ahead, either due to weather or hilly terrain, is more likely to be involved in a head-on collision with a large truck.
- Wide Turns: A truck turning onto a road has to first swing the front of the vehicle out before it moves the trailer. Meanwhile, other drivers are expected to stay where they are, yet this scenario doesn’t always go as planned. The truck might swing too far or a motorist may keep on driving, colliding right into the large vehicle.
- Curved Roads: A similar motion is required when a truck driver is navigating a curved road. However, an inexperienced, inattentive or drunk driver may swing out too far and endanger motorists on the other side of the road.
- Driving Distracted: A driver who’s on a long route may zone out, use a cell phone or be entirely dependent on GPS. In all cases, the driver can make a too-wide turn or pass over the line, colliding right with a motorist traveling in the opposite direction.
- Fatigued Driving: Even with stricter rules, truck drivers can still travel for 10 hours straight without a break. A driver who’s been on the road all day has a higher likelihood of falling asleep behind the wheel. Data from the FMCSA indicates that one-third of all truck drivers have sleep apnea, causing them to feel drowsy during the day even with adequate sleep.
- Speeding: As another tactic, a truck driver may speed to make up for loss of time on their route. Combined with unforeseen weather conditions or distractions, this can quickly lead to a head-on collision.
- Mechanical Issues: Especially when a truck driver is financially responsible for their vehicle’s maintenance, certain factors can fall by the wayside. As one serious risk causing a truck to lose control, brake failure is a potential consequence of long-term wear and tear and ignoring maintenance, which puts other motorists at risk.
- Truck’s Design: Trucks are significantly larger than passenger cars and can be difficult to maneuver. One can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, stand at least 14 feet tall, have a 55-foot turn radius and a higher center of gravity. Through this combination of factors, a truck driver has a higher likelihood of losing control, especially if inexperienced, and needs to apply their brakes sooner, particularly in inclement weather.
Injuries from a Head-On Truck Accident
When a head-on truck accident occurs, the stronger impact can result in life-threatening injuries and the victim may suffer even more if the collision involves entanglement. Victims may experience:
- Broken bones
- Severe facial damage
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Internal organ damage
- Neck and spinal cord injuries
- Internal bleeding
How to Avoid a Head-On Truck Collision
Whether you drive a car or ride a motorcycle, consider these tips to help prevent a head-on crash with a tractor trailer:
- Keep yourself visible. Beyond having your vehicle’s lights on at night, make sure you stay out of a commercial truck driver’s blind spots and you can see their mirrors.
- Avoid distractions, as you may drift over the center line and collide with a tractor trailer.
- Pay attention to all signs on the road, especially when you’re getting on and off the highway.
- Never drive drowsy; make sure you’re well-rested and alert.
- Never drive drunk or after taking medication that has drowsiness as a listed side effect.
- Steer toward a stationary object if it looks like you’re going to get into a collision. The impact of a smaller fixed object is far less than if you are hit by a large tractor trailer truck.
- Watch how you pass, especially when you’re on an unfamiliar road. Never attempt to pass over a double or solid yellow line.
- Pay attention around construction zones and any areas where you see multiple large vehicles.
Were you or a loved one involved in a truck accident? As you focus on recovering from injuries, let our truck accident attorneys handle your claim. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.