Dangers and Accidents Caused by Speeding Semi-Trucks

Speeding semi trucks is a serious risk to the motoring public and is one of the primary causes of 18-wheeler accidents in Texas. The trucking industry and truck drivers are aware of the dangers caused by speeding, yet the practice continues to plague roads across the nation. FMCSA data shows that over 110,000 speeding tickets were issued to truck drivers in 2017. This does not count the number of warnings that were given and obviously does not account for speeding rigs that were missed by law enforcement. Studies show that approximately 26% of drivers who are stopped for speeding receive a warning, making the number of enforced stops roughly 140,000.

Speeding is one of the leading contributors to fatal accidents. In 2020, speeding was a factor in 29% of all fatal traffic accidents, leading to over 11,000 deaths. While all motor vehicles are at an increased risk of danger while speeding, semi-trucks have a higher risk of accidents in at least three ways.

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Speeding Increases an 18-Wheeler’s Stopping Distance

Due to the size and weight of a tractor-trailer, especially a fully loaded one, big rigs require greater stopping distance than standard passenger vehicles. A fully loaded semi-truck traveling 65 mph requires approximately 525 feet to come to a complete stop, over twice the distance of a standard passenger vehicle that can stop within 200 feet. For every additional MPH, trucks require roughly 10 feet of additional stopping distance, the length of a Mini Cooper.

Speeding trucks are routinely involved in three types of accidents:

  • Rear-end collisions – Speed is one of the primary factors leading to rear-end collisions
  • Rollover crashes – Speeding trucks that lack sufficient time to make a complete stop are more likely to take evasive action, leading to rollover accidents that can seriously injure the trucker and surrounding motorists.
  • Jackknife accidents – Abrupt braking increases the risk of tires locking up or loads shifting, two primary causes of a truck jackknifing.

Since travel speed is entirely within the driver’s control, no driver is excused from harm caused by such actions.

Speeding Increases the Distance Traveled Between Perception and Action

Perception and reaction time increase with speed. The faster you go, the more distance you travel before you can react. Reaction time is largely situational and depends on the person and conditions. Nevertheless, standard reconstruction analysis often places reaction time at 1.5 seconds. At 1.5 seconds, a vehicle traveling 65 MPH will cover 142 feet before the driver acts. That is roughly the length of 10 standard-sized vehicles.

Considering reaction time and stopping distance together highlights the serious risk of danger posed by speeding.

  • A truck traveling 65 MPH will require approximately 667 feet to come to a complete stop—142 feet traveled before engaging brakes and another 525 feet to come to a complete stop.
  • A truck traveling 70 MPH will require approximately 728 feet to come to a complete stop—153 feet traveled before engaging brakes and another 575 feet to come to a complete stop.

A truck traveling 70 MPH in a 65 MPH zone will require an additional 61 feet to stop, approximately four and a half standard-length vehicles.

Speeding Reduces Driver Control Over a Semi-Truck

Control over a vehicle is reduced with speed. This is especially true on turns, curves, and uneven roads. According to a 2005 study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, forty percent of speed-related fatalities occur on a curve.

Government agencies carefully study speed limits to ensure posted limits account for changing road conditions. However, speed limits on curves and uneven roads are posted with passenger vehicles in mind. Truck drivers must reduce their speed below posted limits to safely navigate curves, uneven roads, and changing road conditions.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration directs commercial operators to reduce speed in adverse road and weather conditions, work zones, and curves—including on and off ramps, which account for over twenty percent of all truck crashes. Failure to exercise reasonable caution may constitute negligence and subject the driver and company to liability.

What is a Safe Speed for Trucks to Drive?

A safe speed for trucks to drive depends on many factors. A truck driver may think that traveling the speed limit is a safe and reasonable speed, but this is not always the case. Driving conditions, including traction, curves, visibility, traffic, weather, and hills, affect the speed a trucker can safely travel.

In fact, under Texas law, a driver must not travel at speeds greater than that of a reasonable and prudent driver under the given conditions. Section 545.351(1) of the Texas Transportation Code allows an officer to ticket a driver if their speed is deemed unreasonable for the given conditions. Truckers must take appropriate precautions to avoid traveling too fast for conditions to ensure the safety of themselves and the motoring public.

Legal Remedies Available to Victims of Truck Accidents

Like all personal injury claims, victims of preventable accidents can recover compensation for harm caused by others’ negligence. Speeding or traveling too fast for conditions constitutes negligence. If a trucker is cited by authorities for speeding, such actions are generally deemed negligent per se, meaning the trucker’s actions are presumed negligent, and the injured victim is only required to prove the negligent conduct caused the injuries complained of.

On the other hand, a trucker that is not cited for speeding may be negligent if the law determines the driver was traveling at an unsafe speed. Proving an accident was caused by unsafe speed requires an investigation of all the facts and circumstances surrounding the crash. Consulting with trained semi-truck accident attorneys experienced in complex cases provides injury victims the best opportunity to recover fair compensation in disputed liability truck cases.

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