In 2020, the country enjoyed a reprieve from traffic jams, and as a result, the number of vehicle accidents went down. Unfortunately, that break from crashes on the roads is over. And for big rigs, especially in Southern California, the news is even worse. In Ventura County, for example, the number of truck accidents skyrocketed from 115 in 2020 to 136 in 2021. What’s going on?
Road Risks Increased During the Pandemic
Truckers couldn’t stop driving or work from home like many people during the pandemic. They still had to be on the roads, delivering much-needed goods to stores, houses, and other businesses. But, with all the passenger vehicles sidelined during the pandemic, truck drivers suddenly found the highways wide open in a way they had never seen before. This emptiness allowed truckers to take more chances than they ever could have before the pandemic.
For instance, when the highways are jammed, trucks can’t even get up to the speed limit in many cases, much less go over it. But with near-empty streets, trucks could not only reach the speed limit, but exceed it as well. Drivers found that they enjoyed this new freedom and they got used to driving faster than they are able to now that traffic has returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Lack of Safety Technology
While passenger vehicles now come standard with numerous safety features such as electronic stability control, airbags, collision avoidance systems, anti-lock brakes, and more, most big rigs don’t have the luxury of that technology. To begin with, 18-wheelers are expensive to replace, so companies and operators drive them much longer than people do passenger vehicles. The technology itself is also extremely expensive and many operators can’t justify spending more money to equip their trucks with non-standard features.
As a result, passenger vehicle drivers have become less vigilant of the other cars and trucks around them and they think their technology will prevent them from getting into an accident. They also may believe that all vehicles are equipped with the same technology and are relying on that fact to keep them safe. Unfortunately, this is all a bad combination when it comes to big trucks, which are already at a disadvantage in terms of stopping distance and overall weight.
Pressure to Keep on Trucking
One of the biggest reasons behind the increase in truck crashes is that drivers are feeling the pressure to drive as many miles as they can before taking a break. They need to get their loads to their destinations, especially in light of recent supply chain challenges. Unfortunately, this means truckers are sleepier and more distracted than ever before, and as with any driver, these are huge risk factors for motor vehicle accidents.
Deregulation isn’t helping either. Truckers are allowed to work more hours and take shorter rest breaks than in the past. With bosses breathing down their necks to keep driving, there is no incentive for them to stop when their actions become dangerous.
The trend in increasing truck accidents in Southern California and other states is definitely concerning. Hopefully, state and city officials can come together to find solutions to the various dangers on the road before it gets too out of hand.