Commercial trucks pass through Fort Lauderdale every day, many on I-95, transporting goods manufactured in the Sunshine State to markets nationwide, and bringing in cargo to south Florida businesses and consumers. They come and go from Port Everglades, serving as an essential link for commerce between Florida and the rest of the world. They trundle down neighborhood streets from Poinsettia Heights to Melrose Park, picking up garbage, delivering mail, and offering countless consumer services.
Clearly, trucks are an essential part of the Fort Lauderdale economy. But all that truck traffic comes with an inevitable downside: truck accidents. And, with them, severe and fatal injuries that inflict devastation on Fort Lauderdale residents, workers, and visitors.
Many, but especially those who have already been in Fort Lauderdale truck accidents, have questions about these devastating events. What causes those truck accidents in Fort Lauderdale? What characteristics of our city contribute to them? And, how can victims of Fort Lauderdale truck accidents secure compensation for injuries and losses stemming from accidents they did not cause, and should never have had to suffer? Read on for answers to these questions.
The Toll of Truck Accidents in Fort Lauderdale
Let’s start by assessing the problem of truck accidents in and around Fort Lauderdale.
By the Numbers
According to the most recent data available from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), Broward County has close to 4,300 commercial motor vehicle crashes every year. On average, those crashes result in roughly a dozen fatalities and around 1,000 injuries each year to drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and others.
Hot Spot Locations
A report prepared by researchers associated with the Florida Department of Transportation, Large Truck Crash Analysis for Freight Mobility and Safety Enhancement in Florida (FDOT Report) tells more. The FDOT Report examined hot spots for truck accidents in Broward County and identified four locations with a high density of truck crashes within the Fort Lauderdale city limits:
- In the vicinity of I-95 and West Sunrise Boulevard
- In the vicinity of I-95 and West Broward Boulevard
- In the areas surrounding four intersections: I-95 and I-595, I-95 and Marina Mile, Marina Mile and I-595, and I-95 and David Blvd
- In the vicinity of I-95 and Powerline Road near the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport
Taking a closer look at the first two hotspots, the FDOT Report also concluded that the large truck was the vehicle primarily at fault in about 60 percent of the crashes at the I-95/West Sunrise location, and in about 53 percent of the crashes at the I-95/West Broward location. In the remainder of the accidents, the report attributed primary fault to a vehicle involved in the crash that was not a large truck.
Injuries and Costs
Fort Lauderdale truck accidents inflict devastating physical, emotional, and financial harm on their victims. As noted above, Fort Lauderdale-area truck accidents take the lives of roughly a dozen victims and injure another 1,000 victims every year. Those who survive a truck accident in the Fort Lauderdale area may suffer extreme, life-altering injuries which may include:
- Spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis
- Traumatic brain injuries that cause comas or lifelong impairments
- Crushed and/or amputated limbs and appendages
- Burns and toxic exposures resulting from spills of flammable or dangerous truck cargo
- Severe lacerations, abrasions, and other injuries that cause blood loss, infection, and scars
- Internal injuries causing lasting health complications
- Broken bones, orthopedic injuries, and other harms that can result in chronic pain and disability even after they heal
These and other truck accident injuries cause significant physical pain. They also frequently inflict lasting emotional damage that takes a toll not just on victims, but also on family members, friends, and communities.
And then, of course, there’s the financial toll of a truck accident. For victims or families of victims who die from their injuries, truck accidents often result in large medical and out-of-pocket expenses, which can cause severe financial strain, especially because injuries often put victims out of work, and unable to earn wages to cover the bills. For the city of Fort Lauderdale, truck accidents can also result in millions in property damage, business expense, clean-up costs, and overall productivity losses. The FDOT Report estimates that the average overall cost of a single fatal large truck crash ran into the millions of dollars, and that the cost averaged hundreds of thousands for most large truck crashes involving incapacitating injuries.
What Causes Fort Lauderdale Truck Crashes?
The FDOT Report identifies driver error—more often than not committed by the truck driver—as by far the most common contributing factor in causing truck accidents statewide. Driver error caused approximately 95 percent of all large-truck collisions with other moving vehicles, 92 percent of large truck collisions with fixed objects, and 78 percent of single-vehicle truck accidents (such as rollovers and jackknifes), and 70 percent of large truck collisions with pedestrians, cyclists, and animals.
The report also found other preventable factors that played common roles in Florida truck accidents. Most prominently, these included vehicle defects (15 percent of single large truck crashes) and driver distraction/vision obstruction (9 percent of truck collisions with pedestrians, cyclists, or animals).
Let’s take a closer look at the most common errors and preventable causes of Fort Lauderdale truck accidents.
Aggressive or Careless Maneuvers
The FDOT Report identified aggressive or careless driving maneuvers as the dominant truck driver error in most types of large truck accidents. Those maneuvers accounted for the majority (57 percent) of single-truck accidents, and the largest share of all other accidents except collisions between trucks and pedestrians/cyclists/animals, and collisions with parked vehicles.
Aggressive and careless maneuvers can include:
- Driving too fast for road conditions
- Following too closely behind another vehicle
- Failing to check blind spots before turning or changing lanes
- Accelerating or braking erratically
- Failing to move over or leave space for other vehicles
The FDOT report also found improper maneuvers accounted for a significant number of truck driver errors that resulted in accidents in Fort Lauderdale and around the state. They were the dominant cause of collisions between trucks and parked vehicles, playing a leading role in 44 percent of collisions. They played a significant role in all other types of accidents, factoring into one-third of all crashes between trucks and moving vehicles, and a quarter of accidents in which trucks collided with fixed objects.
Improper maneuvers include:
- Backing up in the wrong place or at the wrong time
- Making turns at dangerous locations in the road
- Dangerous passing maneuvers
- Failing to stay in the proper lane
- Running off the roadway
- Over-correcting or over-steering
- Swerving or other evasive actions due to road conditions (wind, slippery surfaces) or obstructions in the roadway
Truck drivers engaging in illegal maneuvers also account for a significant number of truck crashes in Fort Lauderdale. They play an especially notable role in collisions between trucks and pedestrians, cyclists, and animals, contributing to the causes of nearly one-quarter (22 percent) accidents in Florida. Illegal maneuvers also constituted a primary cause in 11 percent of truck accidents involving collisions with other moving vehicles. The only category of
The sorts of illegal driving maneuvers that commonly cause Fort Lauderdale truck accidents include:
- Failure to yield the right-of-way at an intersection, merge, or other traffic conflict point
- Running a red light or a stop sign
- Exceeding the posted speed limit
- Driving on the wrong side of the road, or in the wrong direction on a one-way street
- Disregarding other traffic signs, control signals, or road markings
In evaluating Florida truck accidents (most of them single-truck crashes) in which a vehicle defect played the primary contributing role, the FDOT Report divided defects into two broad categories. It found that so-called “functional” or “vital” defects in trucks, consisting of “those related to brakes, tires, wheels, power train, suspension, truck coupling, etc.,” played a far larger role in causing crashes than “non-functional” or “non-vital” defects, such as those affecting a truck’s windshield wipers or lights.
Functional defects caused more Florida truck accidents overall than non-functional defects. However, non-functional defects played the dominant role in two categories of crashes: truck collisions with pedestrians, cyclists, or animals, and truck collisions with parked vehicles. The likely explanation for this distinction is that the FDOT Report categorized defects that impair a truck driver’s visibility as non-functional, and that decreased visibility often plays a significant role in those types of collisions.
Driver Distraction/Vision Obstruction
The FDOT report found that driver distraction also played an important role in causing truck accidents, particularly (as mentioned above) collisions with pedestrians, cyclists, and animals. Common forms of driver distraction include:
- Cell phone use (texting and driving)
- Eating or drinking behind the wheel while the vehicle is in motion
- Conversing with passengers
- Paying attention to a GPS
- External sights or events that distract drivers from the road ahead
Common forms of visual obstruction that can result in a Fort Lauderdale truck accident include:
- Roadside vegetation (trees, shrubs, etc.)
- Other vehicles or vehicle loads
- Traffic signs and billboards.
- Environmental factors (rain, fog, smoke, etc.)
Surprisingly, despite the widespread use of smartphones and GPS devices, the FDOT Report found that driver distractions external to the truck cab and visual obstructions played a larger role in causing truck crashes in Florida than distractions inside the cab.
Research has identified fatigued or drowsy driving as a chronic and deadly problem among truck drivers, and has led to a host of regulations aimed at curbing the amount of time truck drivers spend behind the wheel.
Given the gravity of the problem of trucker fatigue, and the lower degree of regulation of intrastate truckers compared to interstate truckers in Florida, one might expect trucker fatigue to play a significant role in causing Fort Lauderdale truck crashes. However, the FDOT report appeared to reach the opposite conclusion, identifying truck driver fatigue as the primary contributing factor in only a small fraction of Florida truck accidents.
This surprising finding might be explained by FDOT Report’s author’s reliance on police accident reports for information about contributing factors. Driver drowsiness tends to be overlooked as a contributing factor in police accidents reports, which by design often cite a specific driver error (speeding, failure to yield the right-of-way, etc.) as the principal cause of a crash when, in fact, driver fatigue constituted the root cause of that error.
Fort Lauderdale Truck Crash Victims Have Rights
The data show that truck accidents in Fort Lauderdale are frequent and cause immense damage. Preventable error accounts for most truck accidents in the city. Truck drivers, trucking companies, and others involved in truck transport, especially, make deadly mistakes that have catastrophic consequences for innocent victims.
In the aftermath of a Fort Lauderdale truck accident, individuals who suffered injuries or lost loved ones deserve to receive compensation for their physical, emotional, and economic pain. Florida law permits those victims, in many circumstances, to obtain that compensation by pursuing a personal injury lawsuit against anyone whose careless, reckless, or intentionally harmful actions contributed to the cause of the accident.
An experienced Fort Lauderdale truck accident attorney can help those victims get the money they deserve. Skilled truck accident lawyers understand the complexities of the trucking industry and can sort out the factual circumstances of Fort Lauderdale trucking accidents to determine fault. They know how to secure maximum compensation from those who made tragic mistakes that caused an accident, from companies answerable for those mistakes, and from insurance companies who issue policies protecting those parties against truck accident liability.
If a Fort Lauderdale truck accident harmed you or a loved one, do not wait to seek help from a skilled local truck accident lawyer. You may need to act quickly to take full advantage of your valuable legal rights to receive compensation for your injuries and losses.