Did you know a truck cab alone weighs between 10,000 and 25,000 pounds? Then there’s the weight of the trailer and cargo, potentially adding tens of thousands of pounds that increase the force of the impact.
A T-bone accident with a commercial truck in Houston can cause devastating injuries in the blink of an eye. Even the most careful Houston drivers cannot always avoid becoming victims of T-bone truck accidents, often because of truck-driver negligence.
How do these tragic accidents happen, what can be done to prevent them, and how can you recover from one? These are the questions we’ll address today.
What Happens In A T-Bone Truck Accident?
A T-bone truck accident involves a truck striking another vehicle directly on one of its sides. The sides of a vehicle are structurally weaker, as there’s no bumper or other features designed to absorb the force of the collision. Not only that, there are just inches of structure between passengers and the truck. These vulnerabilities can translate into more severe injuries than other vehicle accidents.
A T-bone truck collision may result in serious injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Back and neck injuries
- Broken bones, especially on the side where the accident occurred
- Severe lacerations
Why Are T-Bone Truck Collisions A Problem In Houston?
Houston drivers quickly get used to navigating in tight traffic, especially if they’re on the roads during busy times of the day. Unfortunately, many of Houston’s chaotic traffic patterns can increase the risk of many types of big-truck accidents, including T-bone collisions.
Houston has an extended “Rush Hour.”
Rush hour for many cities is confined to a single busy hour when more people hit the roads traveling to or from work and it becomes more difficult to navigate safely. In Houston, however, rush hour spans two hours in the morning (between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.) and three hours in the evening (between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.) Those elongated periods of traffic congestion inevitably involve large trucks in the mix.
Houston sees a lot of truck traffic.
The booming Texas oil fields require tanker trucks to drive straight through Houston to make deliveries. Thanks to Houston’s position on the Gulf of Mexico, it also sees a considerable amount of goods coming in via ocean, which then require distribution throughout the surrounding area. Plus, like any other busy metro, Houston has all kinds of other goods flooding into the city via commercial trucks.
Altogether, this means many trucks are coming in and out of Houston at any given time. With more trucks using local roads, there’s a greater potential for T-bone accidents.
Houston has taken a hard hit from the truck driver shortage.
Across the country, the truck driver shortage has left many companies struggling to handle deliveries. Houston, with its substantial need for truck drivers, has faced an even more serious burden as the city struggles to locate qualified drivers. Some companies have increased the compensation they offer truck drivers, especially experienced ones. Even still, these companies find themselves struggling to get the qualified drivers they need.
Consequently, companies may send out inexperienced or improperly trained drivers. Furthermore, even drivers qualified “on paper” might lack the road experience necessary to operate a commercial truck safely. While Houston truck drivers must carry a Class C driver’s license (CDL) to drive a commercial vehicle, CDL training programs often focus on getting drivers in and out of the program and on the road as soon as possible.
Drivers may not have the chance to learn about potential accident scenarios in controlled environments or internalize the skills or knowledge necessary to face the greater challenges of operating a commercial vehicle. Simply put, inexperienced drivers cause more accidents of all types, including T-bone collisions.
Causes of T-Bone Truck Accidents in Houston
Houston T-bone collisions can happen for many reasons. Commercial truck drivers face unique challenges on the road, largely due to the much larger mass of their vehicles. This cannot only make the vehicle more difficult to operate safely, but in an accident, they can easily cause much more serious injuries than collisions between passenger vehicles.
Big trucks weigh a lot and take up a lot of room on the road. This means they need more time to stop, slow down, or maneuver safely. Unfortunately, even minor errors can cause serious trouble, both for truck drivers and the others around them. A T-bone accident can happen before a truck driver has enough time to stop or steer out of the way.
Other than the intimidating challenges of driving a large truck, many additional causes contribute to Houston T-bone truck accidents, including:
Sometimes, truck drivers speed. Because of the truck driver shortage, truck drivers may feel extremely pressured to meet delivery deadlines, especially with the end of their shifts insight. Since truck drivers can only drive for around 11 hours of a 14-hour shift, they may find themselves racing down the road as that end looms closer.
Delays throughout Houston—especially in heavy traffic areas—can also increase the likelihood that time-pressed truck drivers will choose to speed. Additionally, many employers pay by the mile, not the amount of time truck drivers actually spend behind the wheel, incentivizing a driver to get in more miles by speeding.
But big trucks need a lot of room to stop, and more room the faster they are going. Speeding truck drivers may make other mistakes that increase the chances of T-bone accidents, such as trying to run an intersection before the light changes from yellow to red or not paying close enough attention to other vehicles at a four-way stop.
Truck drivers spend a lot of hours behind the wheel. They regularly drive eleven hours straight, several days of the week. Such conditions can cause truck drivers to “space out,” leaving them susceptible to mental distractions that can prevent them from noticing what is going on around them. (Ever heard of “highway hypnosis?” Look it up!)
Other truck drivers may become more deliberately distracted as a way to make the hours pass faster. A driver may, for example, check their phone or flip through stations on the radio, resulting in cognitive and manual distractions. Other truck drivers may eat or drink behind the wheel, especially if they need to make up time on a tight deadline. Still others may have their attention pulled away from the road by things that they arguably need to do their jobs, such as GPS devices or listening to a dispatch radio.
Whatever the distraction may be, it can result in devastating and even fatal accidents, especially when the distracted driver is operating a vehicle more than twenty times the weight of the vehicle that it hits. In the case of T-bone collisions, the distracted truck driver might completely miss a stop sign or traffic light and have no idea until they hit someone crossing the intersection. Since truck drivers’ routes often take them through unfamiliar areas, they may have no idea that the intersection exists until they go through it.
Houston, like any other city, has its dangerous intersections. They may include, for example, West and Airline, or Hawthorne & Spur 527. An intersection may fall into the “dangerous” category for several critical reasons. Most notably, in the case of T-bone collisions, poor visibility may make an intersection especially dangerous, since truck drivers might not even have time to see another vehicle in the intersection before they proceed through it. In other cases, dangerous intersections may lack clear signage, which can make it more difficult to determine who has the right of way.
Intersections can prove particularly difficult for truck drivers to maneuver. Sometimes, truck drivers do not want to fully stop at intersections. It takes longer for a big truck to get up to speed than the average passenger vehicle, which can mean further delays or more maneuvering difficulty. Furthermore, coming to a full stop itself takes considerable time, which the truck driver may struggle with if they do not notice the intersection ahead of time. Failure to slow correctly and stop completely, however, can significantly increase the risk of a T-bone collision.
Truck drivers face stricter requirements when it comes to drinking and driving than drivers of normal passenger vehicles, but unfortunately, that doesn’t always stop truck drivers from driving inebriated. Many people drink to cope with the stresses of life, and truck drivers are certainly not exempt from stress. Truck drivers may struggle with isolation and loneliness that can leave them at a higher risk for substance abuse. These bad habits turn deadly when truck drivers get behind the wheel while inebriated to any extent.
Inebriated drivers have a hard time controlling their vehicles. They may make dangerous decisions, including ignoring the rules of the road in general. Drinking also tends to slow response time, which may raise the risk of a T-bone collision. Inebriation may also interfere with the driver’s visual field, meaning an inebriated truck driver will never even see the other vehicle coming their way.
The more truck drivers try to push through without adequate rest, the more problems they encounter in maneuvering safely.
Like inebriation and distraction, driver fatigue can have an immense impact on truck drivers. Truck driver fatigue may, in fact, have many effects similar to inebriation. Truck drivers may swerve over the road as their response times increase and reflexes slow.
Driver fatigue may result in devastating crashes, such as a driver falling asleep and plowing through an intersection at full speed, despite the clear presence of another vehicle in the intersection. Driver fatigue may also lead a truck driver to make dangerous driving decisions, like speeding to get off the road sooner.
What to Do After a Houston T-Bone Truck Accident
A Houston T-bone truck accident can leave you with the kind of injuries that require you to be rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment. If you can, report a T-bone accident to the Houston police so they can respond to the scene. The police will create a report regarding the accident, which can help establish details about the accident and how it happened.
Tell the police what happened, including anything you noticed leading up to and during the accident that you feel may have contributed to it. Do not suggest you might have been responsible in any way. Instead, simply share the facts in a straightforward manner.
Next, even if you feel that you managed to escape serious injury, make sure to seek medical attention. A doctor’s report can give you a better idea of your injuries. It can also help you in bringing a compensation claim, as your visit to the emergency room or an urgent care center can prove exactly when your injuries took place and establish a causal connection between the accident and your injuries.
Finally, after your wreck, contact a Houston truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. T-bone truck accidents often involve long investigations and strenuous evidence-gathering. A lawyer can help obtain all information related to the accident, establish your claim, assess the compensation you deserve, and fight on your behalf so that you can maximize your financial recovery.