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Main Causes of 18-Wheeler Accidents in Arizona

Big rigs are major players in the national economy, as well as the local economy in Arizona. It’s hard to say where the country would be without this critical method of cargo transportation. Unfortunately, it comes at a price – the cost of human lives. Big rigs and buses caused 11,991 crashes in Arizona in 2016 – 102 of which were fatal. Understanding what causes 18-wheeler accidents most often can help you prevent and avoid them in your life.

Driver Fatigue

According to a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), drivers cause around 87% of all big rig crashes. Driver fatigue is one of these causes. Truck drivers experience fatigue more often than typical drivers on average. Long hours on the road, sleep disorders (e.g., sleep apnea), and driving at night can all contribute to truck driver drowsiness.

Truckers may disobey their hours of service rules or try to keep driving despite feeling tired in order to meet strict work deadlines. Falling asleep behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler can easily be fatal for others on the roadway if the truck collides with smaller vehicles, runs them off the road, or overturns on the highway.

Driving Under the Influence

As is the case in most states, in Arizona the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is lower for commercial drivers than for regular drivers. At 0.04%, a commercial driver in Arizona is legally too intoxicated to drive (compared to 0.08% for other drivers). Commercial drivers shouldn’t drive after consuming any amount of alcohol or drugs that can impair driving ability. Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol can negatively affect a truck driver’s judgment and reaction time. In 2016, alcohol contributed to eight big truck accidents in Arizona.


It is more difficult to control an 18-wheeler with a trailer than passenger vehicles. This is why commercial drivers need special licenses and training. Speeding is particularly dangerous for big rigs as they cannot make controlled turns or stop as easily as smaller vehicles. If a truck driver surpasses a speed that is safe for conditions, he or she risks rear-ending other vehicles at stops, losing control of the truck, or overturning it around a corner. Speeding in a big rig puts other vehicles in serious danger.

Distracted Driving

FMSCA laws prohibit all commercial drivers form texting and driving. Drivers cannot read, write, or send electronic messages using a mobile phone while driving. They also cannot use hand-held cell phones for any form of communication. Not all truck drivers obey this law. Cell phone use behind the wheel can be extremely distracting, resulting in devastating crashes. Other forms of truck driver distraction include eating and drinking, personal grooming, pets in the vehicle, or distractions outside.

Mechanical Failure

Some 18-wheeler crashes aren’t the driver’s fault, but the fault of the trucking company or vehicle part manufacturer. If a part is defective or poorly maintained in a big rig, it can lead to deadly circumstances such as the brakes failing while on the highway. The company may be liable for these crashes if failure to maintain the truck caused the part to break down. The manufacturer may also be liable if the truck part contained a defect that caused the crash.


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