Do Commercial Trucks Transporting Animals Pose Increased Threat To Drivers?

Posted on: 26 July 2017

An accident in July on the Oregon Coast's Highway 101 shows the unintended consequences when commercial truck drivers aren't paying full attention. 

The semi-truck held containers of hagfish, an eel-like creature that secretes a slimy substance when stressed. As the driver neared a construction zone, he slammed on his brakes. The quick stop caused 13 containers of eels to slide off the commercial truck and break open on the highway.

One driver sustained an injury, but fortunately, it was not life threatening. However, the roads were covered with hagfish -- affectionately dubbed "slime eels" in media coverage of the event -- which caused a major hang-up for other drivers.

Commercial Vehicle Accidents Involving Animals May Happen More Than You Think

Truck accidents involving animals are not uncommon. While eels may not be commonly transported around the nation's highways, other domestic animals are -- cows, pigs and chickens are just some of the creatures that have been involved in commercial truck accidents in recent months. The biggest danger to drivers who are not involved in the initial accident is that the animals get loose when their containers are damaged, become scared and wander around the road, potentially moving into traffic and causing more auto accidents.

One example of this happened in Mississippi this March when cows got loose along U.S. Hwy 49. Cars on the highway hit escaped cows, causing eight related crashes, including an unrelated semi-truck rollover -- but fortunately, there were no major injuries reported.

Because so many animals are transported by commercial trucks in the U.S., this type of accident happens repeatedly on highways around the country. However, while news reports detail the chaos and injuries that occur when commercial vehicles carrying animals crash, there are few good sources for statistics on such accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) maintains statistics on collisions caused by animals, but doesn't break out incidents where the animal first escaped from a commercial vehicle on the same roadway. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that there were 3,852 fatalities in commercial truck accidents in 2015 but doesn't specifically break out collisions that occur with or because of trucks transporting animals. Enough accidents happen, however, for you to be alert to issues with animals on the roadways.

Tips for Staying Safe Near Commercial Trucks

What can a driver do to prevent injury from a commercial truck accident involving animals? Of course, it's important to stay aware while you drive, especially on the highways. Follow these common sense guidelines for maintaining your safety and that of others.

  1. Keep the proper stopping distance between your car and the one in front if you, especially if that is a commercial vehicle.
  2. Be cautious when merging. Accelerate quickly to enter the flow of traffic. If you're already on the highway, change lanes to allow entering traffic to move into their lanes safely.
  3. Don't change lanes unless you have to, and stay in the furthest right lane that makes sense.
  4. Give vehicles stopped on the shoulder plenty of room. Change lanes if you can, especially for large commercial vehicles.
  5. Slow down but don't slam on your brakes when you spot a potential problem. Proceed cautiously if there are signs of an accident ahead.

If you are involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, whether it's transporting animals or not, talk to a knowledgeable auto accident lawyer at offices like D Chadwick Calvert Law Office so you know your options.

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