Why Do Truck Accidents at Intersections Occur?

If you look at the statistics, it becomes clear that deadly truck crashes can occur at many places. However, data continues to highlight the increased danger of commercial trucks in busy intersections.

In fact, according to a study performed and released by the Kentucky Transportation Center College of Engineering, the following was true regarding motor vehicle crashes in intersections:

  • 35% of all motor vehicle accidents take place at intersections
  • Urban intersections were significantly more dangerous than rural intersections
  • Four-land undivided intersections had the highest crash rate

Side-Impact & T-Bone Truck Accidents

Unfortunately, intersection accidents can be particularly dangerous. Whereas many truck accidents involve head-on or rear-end collisions, those that occur at an intersection are often T-bone accidents. This simply means that the two vehicles form the shape of a capital "T" when they collide, with one vehicle crashing into the side of the other. When a smaller passenger vehicle collides into the side of a commercial truck, it can result in an underride; on the other hand, when the truck is the one colliding with the smaller car, it can completely decimate the vehicle and cause injuries and fatalities.

"Side impacts accounted for…26 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths."
(Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

What Causes Intersection Accidents?

These accidents often occur when one vehicle is making a turn. For example, say someone driving a small car starts to turn left. If an oncoming truck does not honor a red light, they would collide with the car during the course of that turn. Similarly, because large commercial trucks often need to swing wide to make right turns, passenger vehicle drivers will mistake that extra room as space to fit their car. When the truck then makes a hard cut to complete the turn, the truck can crash into the car on their right—one that they never saw there.

As highlighted above, there are several scenarios that lead to truck accidents at intersections, including:

  • Driver pulling into oncoming traffic from a side street
  • Driver driving too fast to stop or slow down in time
  • Driver moving through an intersection without ensuring its clear

Common Factors in Intersection-Related Truck Accidents

In 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a study entitled "Crash Factors in Intersection-Related Crashes: An On-Scene Perspective" that looked into intersection accidents. What they found was fascinating. For example, when the accident involved a driver who was 24 years or younger, it was commonly attributed to several factors such as internal/external distraction, the false assumption of someone's actions, and either driving too fast for current conditions or aggressive driving. On the other hand, when the driver was from the ages of 25 to 54, the attributing factors included things such as an illegal maneuver, inattention, or critical non-performance of error, as well as driving too fast or too aggressively.

In their study, they looked into common critical reasons for the crash occurring:

  • Recognition Error – 55.7%
  • Decision Error – 29.2%
  • Other Driver-Attributed Error – 9.7%
  • Performance Error – 0.7%
  • Non-Performance Error – 0.8%
  • Vehicles Attributed – 0.4%
  • Environment Attributed – 1.4%

Recognition errors could be further broken down into the following:

  • Inadequate Surveillance
  • Internal Distraction
  • Inattention
  • External Distraction

Similarly, decision errors could be broken down into the following:

  • False Assumption of Other's Actions
  • Turned with Obstructed View
  • Illegal Maneuver
  • Misjudgment of Gap or Other's Speed
  • Too Fast for Conditions or Aggressive Driving

Preventing Serious Intersection Accidents

There are several steps that can be taken to prevent these dangerous accidents from occurring.

On a personal level, drivers should ask themselves these questions:

  • Do I approach intersections at a reasonable speed?
  • Am I prepared to stop at intersections regardless of right of way?
  • Do I slow down or stop when the traffic light turns yellow?
  • Do I approach blind corners slowly and cautiously?
  • Am I always alert for turning vehicles?
  • Do I avoid overtaking other vehicles or passing during an intersection?
  • Do I make sure the intersection is clear before entering?
  • Do I use my signals to alert other drivers in advance of my maneuvers?
  • Do I look for overtaking vehicles toward my left before I turn left?
  • Do I always make the turn while in the proper lane?
  • Do I drive defensively with the expectation that some drivers will act unexpectedly?

By taking personal measures such as the above, both truck drivers and the drivers of passenger vehicles can help reduce the number of crashes that occur at intersections—keeping the nation's roads a safer place.

The Trucker's Obligation to Prevent Intersection Collisions

Professional truck drivers have a responsibility to prevent accidents. Fortunately, many accidents at intersections are completely avoidable if the following precautions are taken by the truck driver.

A truck driver should always:

  • Carefully check traffic before entering an intersection or turning on to a road from a side street to make sure the road is clear of oncoming traffic
  • Drive at speeds that allow the truck to slow down in time for an upcoming red light, stop sign, or braking vehicle
  • Leave enough distance between the truck and the cars in front of it to stop quickly in the event of an emergency
  • Not cross an intersection unless the gap in traffic is large enough to allow the entire length of the truck to clear the intersection without making oncoming traffic slow

When truck drivers fail to do these things, people are severely injured—many even die.

"I've been injured in an intersection crash. What do I do?"

If you or someone you love was involved in a truck accident that occurred at an intersection, you should not hesitate to get the involvement of an experienced trial lawyer from Arnold & Itkin LLP. We have won more than $1 billion in 5 years on behalf of our clients in verdicts and settlements—including several cases that set state records. Based in Houston, we have successfully handled cases throughout the country, and we have earned a national reputation for our skill, drive, creativity, and commitment to our clients.

Our firm is also proud to take cases on a contingency fee basis, which means you only pay us if we win. For this reason, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible so that you can tell us what happened. We offer a 100% free and confidential case consultation where you can talk to us about your situation and we can help you learn your legal options. So don't waste another moment!

To get in touch with our trucking accident lawyers, give us a call at (888) 493-1629. You can also fill out our online form to send us an email. We look forward to hearing from you.

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