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Big Rig Accidents


With several major interstates crisscrossing its borders, and more than a few commercial trucking companies headquartered in the state, Georgia has a lot of traffic--especially truck traffic. In 2013, vehicles in Georgia drove 300 million miles; in 2016 the amount of miles expected to be traveled is 350 million. As the amount of miles driven increases, so does the number of accidents. Big rig traffic and big rig accidents have been on the rise in Georgia, with fatal crashes increasing 4% in the past 2 years alone. These statistics have earned Georgia a status it does not want: a place in the top five of states in the nation for fatal crashes involving commercial trucks.


After two particularly tragic accidents involving big rigs in the spring of 2015 in which ten people lost their lives, Governor Nathan Deal announced a safety plan to address the crisis of rising numbers of fatal crashes. Governor Deal proposed $10 million a year to fund 60 extra commercial vehicle enforcement officers to patrol around the Port of Savannah, high crash corridors near I-16, I-95, and I-85, and Atlanta's most congested areas.

The increase in commercial vehicle enforcement officers will actually only return their numbers to pre-2014 levels. In 2014, due to budget shortfalls among other factors, the number of officers decreased and so did the number of truck inspections. By hiring more officers, the hope is that truck inspections will increase to their pre-2014 levels.


Big rig accidents, like all accidents, are caused by a variety of factors, which are often overlapping and interconnected. However, commercial trucking companies have a system that presents challenges and risks unique to that mode of transportation. For example, truck drivers work long days, and although the number of hours they are permitted to drive and are supposed to rest are strictly regulated, driver fatigue causes between 30-40% of truck accidents. Similarly, the effort to meet tight deadlines can also mean ignoring the mandatory limits on driving time and/or speeding across highways and interstates.

Proper maintenance of big rigs is also different than maintenance of other vehicles on the road. An "Eighteen-wheeler" literally means that 18 wheels must constantly be checked for tread, pressure and punctures in order to avoid dangerous blow-outs. Lights and brakes are hugely important on big rigs and are top maintenance priorities.

A pre-trip inspection conducted by a trained commercial vehicle enforcement officer is critical to determining whether both the driver and the commercial vehicle are ready for the highway. In a Level 3 Inspection, an officer conducts an examination of the rig, and inspects: a driver's license; medical examiner's certificate; a driver's record of duty, status, and hours of service; and seat belt and hazardous materials/dangerous goods requirements. If anything on the rig or with the driver fails inspection, the rig does not go out on the road--possibly preventing an accident and saving lives.


There has been an ongoing debate about whether hiring additional commercial vehicle enforcement officers is as effective a way to decrease big rig accidents as requiring collision avoidance technology in commercial trucks. Safety systems such as forward collision warning, in which cameras or lasers detect objects in a driver's path and alert the driver, even braking for the driver if the truck does not stop, and lane and road departure warning systems which warn drivers who are about to cross a lane line, thereby reducing the rate of drivers going off the road by approximately 40%, offer technological assists for fatigued and distracted drivers.

A study by the Institute for Highway Safety concluded that lane departure warning, stability control, forward collision warning, and side view assist technologies could reduce the number of truck accidents by as much as 28%. Because accidents involving big rigs tend to cause big property damage and serious, often fatal injuries, any reduction in the occurrence of the accidents is a big win for everyone. But it does not need to be an "either or" proposition; new safety technologies can go hand-in-hand with more commercial vehicle enforcement officers to form a comprehensive approach to safer truck traffic.


At the Thomas Law Firm, we have experience in representing people who have suffered property damage or personal injury due to an accident involving a big rig. We recover medical costs, lost wages, rehabilitation expenses, replacement property costs, and any other expenses needed to make a person whole again after an accident. Contact Dave Thomas today for a free evaluation of your legal rights.

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Thomas Law Firm
Located at 945 East Paces Ferry Road, Resurgens Plaza, GA 30326.

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