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September 13, 2016 11:30 AM, EDT

In Ohio, Large Trucks Get the Blame, but Car Drivers Cause Majority of Wrecks

Jamie Rector/Bloomberg News

Nationwide, fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses have dropped for decades. But with more trucks and more small cars on the road, the number of truck-involved crashes on Ohio roads has been rising in recent years.

Large trucks often get the blame when wrecks occur, but for highway safety, drivers of smaller cars have a key role to play, said Ed Feddern, manager of motor carrier enforcement for the Ohio Highway Patrol.

“The thing to impress on people is, don’t tailgate a truck,” Feddern said. “Give them plenty of room when you’re changing lanes. Don’t hang out in those blind spots.”

On Ohio 49 southbound, drivers are tailgating Joe Pryor’s truck, cutting him off when changing lanes, not signaling their intentions and hanging out in his blind spot — seemingly all at once.

It’s just another morning for Pryor. He has just dropped off a Jet Express trailer at the Dayton Origin Distribution Center in Clayton, a trailer that will be filled with parts for the DMAX truck engine plant in Moraine. A day later, Pryor will return to pick up the trailer and haul it to a DMAX warehouse in Dayton.

But on the way from the distribution center, smaller cars swarm Pryor’s truck. They follow too closely and edge into his lane in front of him, without signaling or allowing enough room.

“A lot of them, they’ll cut in front of you, and then they’ll slow down,” Pryor said with a chuckle.

The key, he said, is patience.

“You’ve just got to take it slow,” said the 14-year Jet Express driver and retired Pittsburgh firefighter. “You’ve got to be calm, cool and collected. That’s part of your job.”

Who do you blame for highway accidents?

A 2013 study examining 8,309 fatal car-truck crashes, car drivers were “assigned factors,” or found at fault, in 81% of crashes versus 27% for truck drivers, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Cars were the encroaching vehicle in 89% of head-on crashes, 88% of opposite-direction sideswipes, 80% of rear-end crashes and 72% of same-direction sideswipes — “obvious indicators of fault,” according to an American Trucking Associations summary of the study’s findings.