Trucking Accidents in Oklahoma
If it seems like there are more trucks on the road than ever before, you may be right. Consumer demand is rising, supply chain backlogs are easing, and trucks remain the most popular way to get goods to their destination. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent Commodity Flow Survey (CFS), trucks transport 71.6% of all goods shipped in the United States, worth a whopping $10.4 trillion.
Accidents and fatalities are also on the rise: A report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that traffic fatalities involving at least one large truck were up 13% from 2020 to 2021. Fatal crashes on rural interstates in particular increased by 15%.
As in the rest of the country, trucking accidents in Oklahoma are sometimes the result of motor carriers putting profits over people. Drivers may not be properly trained, encouraged to drive while tired, or operating trucks that have safety violations on record. When the worst happens, carriers are prepared with lawyers and litigation strategies to handle the fallout, while victims have far fewer resources.
If you or a loved one has been in a truck accident in Oklahoma, you need to be prepared to fight. Read on for the scoop on Oklahoma truck cases and how an experienced truck accident lawyer can help.
Trucking accident statistics for Oklahoma
According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO), there were 5,575 truck accidents in Oklahoma in 2021. While no injuries were reported in nearly 75% of accidents, there were 99 fatal truck accidents and many more that caused serious injuries. And while you might not be surprised that nearly one-third of trucking accidents took place on interstate highways, the next-highest crash area is city streets, accounting for nearly 20% of Oklahoma’s truck accidents.
What are the most common contributing factors in trucking accidents? In Oklahoma, “improper acts” are number one, a category that includes failure to signal, unsecure loads, and sleepiness. The next most common causes are changing lanes unsafely, speeding, and getting distracted.
Oklahoma is also home to some of the deadliest highways in the country. One study of NHSTA data found that SR-9 in Oklahoma is the second deadliest, and another study points the finger at I-40 and I-35, both of which run through Oklahoma.
Causes of truck accidents in Oklahoma
Trucking accidents in Oklahoma are caused by the same factors as accidents in the rest of the country. Here are the top culprits:
Fatigue, distractions, and speeding
Fatigue and distractions are a major cause of truck accidents. There are rules about how many hours commercial drivers can be behind the wheel, when they need to rest, and for how long. But whether they need to meet a deadline, beat traffic or weather, or just want to get home, drivers sometimes break these rules. The same goes for distractions and speeding: Texting while driving and speeding are both banned by the state of Oklahoma and trucking regulations, but they remain a problem.
Alcohol and drugs
Because truck drivers are required to take random drug and alcohol tests, as well as pre-employment tests, driving under the influence isn’t actually a very common cause of trucking accidents in Oklahoma or nationwide. According to the OHSO study, alcohol and drugs were involved in just 0.3% of accidents in 2021.
When a truck experiences a failure or breaks down, it doesn’t always come to a stop gracefully at the side of the road. A blown tire, failing brake system, broken wheel axle, or overheating engine can cause a dramatic crash for a large vehicle like a truck. One 2016 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that nearly three-quarters of trucks inspected after a crash had a vehicle defect.
Improperly loaded cargo
Cargo in commercial trucks must be properly loaded, packed, and secured so that it doesn’t shift during transit. If it isn’t, cargo on open types of trucks, like flatbeds, dump trucks, or car transporters, can spill into the roadway and cause accidents. Even in an enclosed truck, cargo that suddenly shifts can create an imbalance and cause the truck to roll or jackknife. If the truck is carrying hazardous materials, the damage can be even greater.
Icy roads and high winds are especially risky for large trucks, which can easily skid, jackknife, and roll over. Large trucks can also cause plenty of damage to surrounding traffic during foggy and snowy conditions. While the panhandle and northwest get the majority of snow in the state, other areas experience freezing rain that can be just as dangerous. Heat can also cause problems, affecting the engine, brakes, and tires and fatiguing drivers. Southern Oklahoma has high summer temperatures that could cause these types of truck accidents.
Who is at fault for trucking accidents?
A 2006 study from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that the truck driver was responsible for the crash in 55% of cases. For trucking accidents in Oklahoma specifically, the OHSO study found that 41.2% of large truck accidents were assigned to the category “No Improper Action by Driver,” meaning the driver was not at fault. However, this wouldn’t include causes such as mechanical failure or improperly loaded cargo, in which someone else might be at fault.
Among the crashes that were the fault of the truck driver, 88% were due to driver behavior, including speeding, fatigue, and illegal maneuvers. Motor carriers can often be held liable in such cases because it’s their responsibility to ensure their drivers are qualified and follow safety rules and regulations. They can also be held liable for accidents caused by mechanical failures and breakdowns because they’re responsible for keeping their trucks in good shape.
What to do after a truck accident in Oklahoma
Determining liability in truck cases can be difficult. In addition to the driver and carrier, the vehicle manufacturer, parts manufacturer, maintenance company, or cargo loader could be held responsible. Drivers and carriers also move quickly to establish their own case and “cover their tracks,” and they often have deep pockets to do so.
If you’ve been injured in a trucking accident in Oklahoma and you believe it wasn’t your fault, it’s important to contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. A truck accident lawyer can guide you through the process of proving liability, including taking witness statements, obtaining the reports and photographs of the scene, and taking care of communication with the driver, motor carrier, and insurance companies.
The bottom line
Truck accident injuries can cost you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, and cause lifelong pain and suffering. Yet with the variety of causes and number of parties involved, there’s also a good chance you’re not at fault. Contact us right away to start building your case. We believe survivors of truck accidents in Oklahoma and their families deserve compensation for their injuries, and we’ll fight for it.