Study: Car drivers cause of most crashes involving big rigs

DOT study indicates car drivers more at fault

INDIANAPOLIS - A Call 6 Investigation into dangerous trucks rolling down Indiana highways is prompting reaction from the trucking industry.

Federal records indicate that in 2012, Indiana State Police found more than 6,000 trucks with mechanical issues so dangerous that officers immediately pulled them off the road.

But the Indiana Motor Truck Association said only 10 percent of crashes are caused by mechanical problems, and the American Trucking Associations points to studies that show the behavior of car drivers is to blame in the majority of crashes.

A 2006 study from the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated that truck drivers are at fault in 36 percent of crashes, while car drivers are to blame 64 percent of the time.

The Indiana Motor Truck Association invited the Call 6 Investigators on a ride along with a tractor-trailer driver to illustrate what drivers are doing wrong.

"Most crashes are caused by inattentive driving, not paying attention to what you're doing," said Earl Harris, a truck driver of 26 years who currently works for Venture Logistics. "It's easier for people to blame the truck driver because we're the professional drivers, and we're not supposed to be the ones in the accident."

The Call 6 Investigators rode along with Harris, who has never been in an accident. Harris pointed to several examples of drivers cutting it too close.

"That was a close one," said Harris, pointing to a van that darted in front of his truck on Interstate 65. "They didn't use a turn signal at all for three lanes."

Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney asked Harris how many times a day he gets cut off.

"I would lose count," said Harris. "They treat us like we are a car, but we're totally different than how a car reacts. We're a lot slower. We're a lot heavier, and it takes a lot longer to stop."

Harris said distracted driving is more of a cause for concern than aggressive driving.

"I see it all day," said Harris. "You’re busy talking on the phone or texting or eating or lighting a cigarette."

Harris admits sometimes it's his fellow truck drivers breaking the rules and pointed out a tractor-trailer passing at a high rate of speed in the fast lane.

"It’s what I would consider aggressive driving," said Harris. "I take it personally, yes, because it's my profession. I don’t know, he should've known better."

Inspection reports obtained by Kenney showed that in central Indiana trucks, Indiana State Police found issues such as unsafe tires, defective turn signals, brake issues and unsecured loads.

But Harris said driver behavior is a bigger concern than mechanical issues.

"Relax and take your time," said Harris. "If you're not in such a rush, you can manage to see everything around you."

The Indiana Motor Truck Association points to data showing a reduction in deadly accidents as proof the trucking industry is working hard to improve safety.

From 2011 to 2012, there was a 16 percent reduction in the number of fatal crashes involving commercial motor vehicles.

Print this article Back to Top