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What are some causes of serious truck accidents?

If you have ever found yourself surrounded by semi-trucks on the expressway, you know how scary it can feel to be dwarfed by these giant rigs. The combination of trucks' heavy weights and high speeds plus your car does not always make for a good result.

Commercial truck drivers are held to high safety standards, but serious accidents continue to happen. Here is a look at some of the most common causes of truck accidents and what you can do to stay safe when driving around trucks:

Driver fatigue

Many truck drivers are on the road a lot -- to the extent that 13 percent of drivers were fatigued when they were involved in a crash, according to The Large Truck Crash Causation Study. Some ways to prove fatigue include checking driver logs and consulting sleep experts.

Drug or alcohol intoxication

Just as driver fatigue is a culprit in car and truck accidents alike, so is drug or alcohol intoxication. Some truckers may be affected by medications they take for health problems. Whatever the cause, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is risky.

Poor truck maintenance

Some companies are stricter about truck maintenance than others. Faulty brakes and worn tires are just two issues that can result in a serious accident.

Driver error

Truck drivers do not always receive enough safety training. Even those who are well-trained encounter a variety of situations as they cross new areas of the state or country, and, in their panic, they can make a costly error.

Improper loading

Other common causes of truck accidents include defective equipment, bad truck design and improper loading. For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has rules that govern how cargo should be loaded; cradles, wedges and chocks are one way to secure cargo that is likely to roll. However, these regulations are not always followed.

What can drivers do to stay safe around trucks?

While there is not much you can do to make truck drivers safer, you can take steps to drive defensively and keep yourself safe. If you make sure you get adequate sleep before hitting the road, for example, you will be more likely to notice when a truck is potentially dangerous. Similarly, making sure you are not impaired by drugs or alcohol can help ensure you are alert enough to defect unsafe behavior by other drivers on the road in time.

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