For example, in some states, semi-trailers must be driven at a slower speed than cars and passenger vehicles are driven at. The reason for the slower speed is physics—it takes a big truck a lot longer to stop than it takes smaller vehicles, especially when traveling at faster speeds. According to an article in the Daily Journal, it can take a semi-trailer almost 400 feet to stop when it is traveling at 60 miles per hour. Imagine if a large truck traveling that fast had to stop suddenly. It would be virtually impossible to do so.
Speeds for semi-trailers vary depending on the state they are in. Forty-two states have uniform speed limits on their rural interstates, meaning that the semi-trailers drive at the same speed as other vehicles. Meanwhile, some states have the limit set at 70 miles per hour, while others have the speed limit set at 64 miles per hour.
In Illinois, tractor trailers must be driven at 55 miles per hour. A number of proposals have been forwarded to allow big trucks to travel at a faster speed, however these have all been either defeated or vetoed. Critics of the proposed legislation note that it is much more difficult for trucks to stop quickly at high speeds and therefore unsafe for trucks to travel at the same speed as passenger vehicles.
So, how deadly are large truck accidents? According to the Truck Safety Coalition, 5,212 people died in the US in accidents involving large truck accidents in 2005 and a further 114,000 were injured. Furthermore, approximately, one in eight traffic crash fatalities are the result of a large truck accident and, in two-vehicle crashes involving a small passenger vehicle and a large truck, "98 percent of the resulting deaths are the occupants of the small passenger vehicles." Approximately 22 percent of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths are related to large truck accidents.
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Even though large trucks are regulated in the US, they are still often operated with safety defects. The Coalition notes that "In both 2005 and 2006, more than one of every five trucks that were inspected was placed out of service for deficiencies that prevented it from continuing to operate."
Truck accidents can be devastating to the people involved in crashes. They can sustain lifelong injuries that require constant treatment, if they even survive the accident. An experienced lawyer can help to determine liability in the accident and help victims receive compensation for their injuries.