There is no shortage of risks associated with being a truck driver, no matter what state you’re in. The long hours, the uneven center of gravity, and the all-around difference in mass between a truck and standard passenger vehicles means every driver knows just how dangerous it can be. Extensive training and safety measures teach truckers how to navigate the roads, but not everything that should be taught, is taught every time. In other words, gaps in official training resources contribute to some incredibly deadly truck accidents — including bridge strikes. Bridge strikes occur when a truck tries and fails to go through an underpass, thus striking the bridge that covers it. Not only do these accidents frequently injure the driver, but they can also injure any other cars around or on the bridge.
These accidents happen with an unfortunate frequency. Understanding the contributing factors and risks associated with bridge strikes can help truckers avoid them — and that is something everyone on the road can benefit from.
Common injuries caused by bridge strikes
Even if there are no fatalities after a truck crashes into a bridge, such collisions often cause catastrophic injuries. The truck driver, any passengers, and any other vehicles impacted by the accident might have physical trauma so severe it affects them for the rest of their lives. Trucks are large and heavy, and often moving at highway speeds. Bridges are large, heavy, and stationary. Any sort of collision is bound to have tragic results, and that’s why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration considers bridge strikes to be the serious safety hazard they are.
Some of the more severe injuries associated with truck bridge strikes are:
- Traumatic brain injury, including everything from concussions to serious, long-term damage. TBIs can affect a victim’s personality, memory, cognition, and all-around awareness, and many of these injuries never completely heal.
- Broken or shattered bones from the impact of the accident, getting hit by debris, or being ejected from the vehicle (though ideally everyone involved is wearing a seatbelt). Depending on the severity, victims could be out of work for months and may even need surgeries to save or realign the limb.
- Amputation or loss of limb, which can happen if a victim’s limb is entirely crushed beyond repair, or actually torn off during the accident.
- Organ and other internal damages, which can lead to their own myriad of expensive complications.
- Spinal cord injuries can not only cause permanent nerve damage, but can also cause varying levels of paralysis. Doctors may want to try extensive surgeries to restore function, and victims may need an array of accommodations for the rest of their lives.
The biggest mistake truckers can make is assuming they could not possibly make a mistake like striking a bridge. An over-inflated sense of confidence leads to slack safety precautions leads to deadly accidents. While the FMCSA doesn’t keep track of bridge strikes, we know they happen — and they happen everywhere. It may have been a while since one has made the news here in Oklahoma, but back in 2016, two men were severely injured after the truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a bridge, ejecting himself and his passenger. Because neither were wearing seat-belts, they’re lucky enough to have survived the event — but it could have been avoided.
How to avoid Oklahoma City bridge strike accidents
As the driver of a passenger vehicle, there isn’t much you can do to avoid being around one of these accidents. They happen unpredictably, and due to some level of recklessness or accidental negligence by the driver, so the only precautions you can take other than making sure you’re always aware and alert when on the road. If you see a truck displaying any sort of strange or unsafe-seeming behavior, it’s best to stay back — even without an underpass coming up. For you, it is more important that you know how to protect yourself if you’re ever injured in one of these events (such as getting an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible).
If you are a truck driver, however, you should have received proper, thorough training to help you avoid the mistakes that lead to bridge strikes. Typically, these accidents happen because drivers rely solely on noncommercial GPS that doesn’t account for bridge height, their trucks are improperly or overloaded, or because the driver wrongly believes they “can make it.” For all these causes, the trucker is at the center.
The state of New York has a lot of underpasses and trucks, and therefore a lot of bridge strikes, which means officials there work hard to spread awareness on ways truckers can be safer fellow commuters and avoid these accidents. Many of these tips center around the usage of the right GPS: always use commercial GPS, make sure it is properly vetted and contains any and all vehicle-specific information, and keep it up-to-date.
Aside from mitigating equipment error, they suggest truckers resist the urge to rely solely on GPS. Looking at recent, detailed maps to better understand the route helps avoid anything the technology doesn’t catch. Other than that, drivers should be aware of any and all restrictions in the states they pass through, and always heed road signs. Never assume you can make it. Erring on the side of caution is the best way to ensure it pays off.
Not every accident is cut-and-dry, and liability isn’t always easy to prove or pin down. In cases of bridge strikes, there may be multiple factors at play that cause the collision, and this can mean multiple parties are responsible. It can be incredibly complicated and taxing, especially with every possibly-responsible entity working as hard as they can to get away, but it is more than worth it — if you approach it correctly. When you hire a personal injury attorney after a truck accident, bridge strike or otherwise, causes your severe injuries, you’re setting yourself up to truly receive the justice you deserve. No victim should have to shoulder the financial burden of years of medical interventions and accommodations, especially when the injuries were caused by another’s negligence, and seeking damages is the best way to ensure you don’t.
At Cunningham & Mears, we are so dedicated to serving our Oklahoma City community that we have two offices in the area. We are proud to work tirelessly to get our clients the compensation they deserve after a truck accident turned their life upside down. To learn more about what we can do for you, call us today at (405) 232-1212 or use our contact form.
Ryan Y. Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Cunningham devotes his practice to protecting the rights of injured Oklahoma residents. In addition to assisting injured clients, Mr. Cunningham endeavors to improve personal injury representation by speaking on issues related to personal injury law to attorneys in continuing legal education courses and to law students. Learn More