For the most part, drivers of commercial trucks in North Carolina strive to do their jobs safely. Working long hours on the road involves many risks. When a fleet management systems provider asked truckers to describe their top safety problems, getting cut off in traffic by passenger vehicles was their top concern.
Most North Carolina motorists go about their daily driving tasks with little concern or trepidation yet are, on some level, aware of the risks of accidents. Although road safety is regularly promoted through public awareness campaigns, the number of accidents nationally continues to climb and is, by most estimates, in excess of 6 million incidents every year. Thankfully, most accidents are relatively minor, involving no personal injury and clear liability, but truck accidents present a different set of challenges than a more typical scenario involving two passenger cars.
In 2017, 4,761 people died in crashes involving large trucks on North Carolina roadways and others throughout the country. That was a 9% increase in large truck fatalities in a year when traffic fatalities overall dropped by 2%. The increase in crashes may be caused by drivers who are trying to get to their destination before they are forced to stop work. According to federal regulations, drivers are required to take a break after eight hours behind the wheel.
From 2016 to 2017, the number of car crash deaths in North Carolina and across the US went down 2% with 2017 seeing a total of 37,133 deaths. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has made preliminary estimates that show how the decline is continuing through 2019. On the other hand, truck crash fatalities have gone up dramatically.
Truckers in North Carolina may already know that there are more and more crashes involving cars and trucks than in previous years. Florida, for example, has seen a jump from 23,515 such accidents in 2014 to 32,513 in 2018. The Florida DoT has said that speeding is the leading driver-related factor in these crashes.
Tired or inattentive truck drivers can cause hazards on roads throughout North Carolina and the rest of the country. This may be true even on highways that are designed to keep truckers off main roads as much as possible. In North Dakota, the Highway 23 bypass was constructed to reduce commercial truck traffic on the main street in New Town. It was touted as a way to increase roadway safety when it was completed in 2014 at a cost of $25 million.
As attitudes toward marijuana change, more drivers in North Carolina and throughout the country may share the road with those who are impaired by the drug. However, there is no reliable test that can be used to determine if an individual is too impaired to drive. Another problem with marijuana testing is that it may detect traces of the substance in a person long after it has been used. Therefore, someone who tests positive for marijuana may not actually be under its influence.
Commercial truck drivers may be stopped at random for an inspection in North Carolina between June 4 and 6. These three days will encompass the 2019 International Roadcheck, an inspection spree held once a year by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. Inspectors will mostly conduct Level I inspections, which are the most comprehensive and cover both vehicle and operator compliance.
Fatal large truck crashes are increasing in North Carolina and the rest of the U.S. In 2017, 4,102 people died in large truck crashes, which is up 28 percent from 2009. The majority of these victims are car occupants, and many of the crashes are rear-end accidents. Truck safety groups say that if all heavy trucks were required to have forward crash warning and mitigation systems, thousands of these accidents could be prevented.
Every year, at least 300 people die in underride crashes. North Carolina residents should know that these crashes occur when a motor vehicle collides with a large truck and slides under it. In such crashes, the vehicle's safety features are rendered useless. These crashes usually end in head or neck injuries or, in some cases, decapitation.