Like any city, Syracuse relies on large trucks to keep its economy humming. Trucks deliver inventory to downtown retailers and packages to homes in Tipperary Hill and other neighborhoods. They transport equipment for events at the Carrier Dome and the New York State Fairgrounds. They come-and-go from businesses along I-690 and I-81.
Truck traffic inevitably comes with a risk of truck accidents, including truck rollovers. In this blog, we explore the causes and risks of truck rollovers in Syracuse, and how an experienced truck accident injury lawyer can help if a rollover truck accident injuries you or a loved one.
The Numbers on Rollovers and Other Truck Accidents in Syracuse
The Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR) maintains a comprehensive database of New York State crash reports. Drawing from that data, and from truck crash data collected by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), we can begin to develop a picture of the risks Syracuse drivers have typically faced when sharing the roads with large trucks.
According to ITSMR data, Syracuse witnesses between 100 and 200 truck crashes per year on average, roughly 20 to 30 of which will cause injuries or fatalities (the remainder cause property damage only). Within Onondaga County as a whole, about 400 to 600 large truck crashes happen annually, roughly 100 of which cause injuries or fatalities.
ITSMR data does not indicate how many of those Syracuse truck crashes involve rollovers, but FMCSA data reflect that rollovers consistently account for about 4 percent of all fatal or injury-causing truck accidents on U.S. roads. So, it’s safe to say that in any given year, somewhere between five and 10 rollovers are likely to happen in and around Syracuse, and that at least a few of those will result in fatalities or injuries.
That might not seem like a lot, but it’s important to remember that the data do not always capture the full scope of harm caused by a Syracuse truck rollover. For example, a truck that rolls and spills its cargo may trigger secondary traffic accidents that may not get captured in ITSMR or FMCSA reporting. So, while only a handful of truck rollovers may directly cause injuries in Syracuse every year, others likely lead indirectly to serious physical harm.
And, of course, even one harmful truck rollover accident is one too many, and stands a good chance of causing widespread devastation in the lives of the injured crash victim and others.
Factors that Lead to Truck Rollovers in Syracuse
Truck drivers in Syracuse face a variety of potential hazards that can lead to a rollover accident.
High Traffic Volumes
It will come as no surprise to anyone who drives in Syracuse, but according to New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) traffic volume data, Syracuse is home to numerous roads with high traffic volumes, particularly the stretches of I-81 and I-690 running through downtown. On some sections of those roads, nearly one out of every 10 vehicles is a truck, which is roughly twice the national average.
Crowded roads make managing a large truck more difficult. Truckers have less time to react to hazards, and less margin for error when something goes wrong. High-risk driving conditions like that can lead to mistakes, which, in turn, lead to rollovers.
Highway Curves, Exit Ramps, and Other Hazards
Truck drivers navigating the tangle of elevated highway interchanges snaking through Syracuse encounter tight curves wherever they look, not to mention that exiting the highway frequently requires steering around a cloverleaf exit ramp.
Road curves present a challenge for any driver, but they’re especially daunting for truckers. Large trucks have high centers of gravity, especially when they’re fully loaded. That makes them relatively unstable and prone to tipping over. Trucks that enter a sharp curve in Syracuse just a little too fast, or that corrects course on one of those curves just a little too aggressively, can easily roll.
Syracuse Snow and Other Weather Hazards
Syracuse averages between 120 and 130 inches of snowfall per year, according to the National Weather Service. That makes it one of the snowiest cities in America, thanks to its unique climate that positions it to receive lake-effect snow, and puts it in the path of Nor’Easters and Alberta Clippers. From November to March (at least), you are as likely as not to encounter slushy, icy, slick conditions on Syracuse roads, all of which make for treacherous driving in a large truck and can lead to rollovers.
Other weather conditions can also heighten truck rollover risks. High crosswinds, for example, can play havoc with a trucker’s ability to maintain control and may, in extreme cases, blow a truck and its trailer clean over. Rain, too, can reduce visibility and lead to rollovers on wet curves. Even sunshine can contribute to a rollover when the glare from the surface of a Syracuse-area exit ramp momentarily blinds a truck driver.
Truck driver inexperience also leads to rollover accidents in Syracuse. Truckers must undergo special training and pass a test to obtain a commercial drivers license (CDL, but that doesn’t mean that they always have the skill to navigate challenging driving conditions in and around Syracuse.
Due to a nationwide truck driver shortage, many trucking companies struggle to hire and retain qualified drivers with extensive training and experience on the roads. A driver who lacks the hours behind the wheel necessary to know how fast to enter a sharp curve, or what to do when a trailer’s wheels run off the road surface onto a soft shoulder, can find himself steering into trouble and a rollover accident.
Unsecured and Unbalanced Loads
If loaders fail to properly secure a truck’s cargo in a trailer box or on a flatbed, or if they load it in a lopsided, unbalanced fashion, the truck may become difficult to handle and could tip. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has clear regulations that govern how drivers must secure cargo, truckers and shippers do not always follow them.
The Hazards of Truck Rollover Accidents
Syracuse truck rollover accidents not only pose a serious hazard to the truck driver, they can pose a high risk of injury for anyone nearby.
Large Trucks Outweigh Small Passenger Vehicles
Large trucks, when fully loaded, can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. While modern passenger vehicles have strong frames designed to help protect the passengers in a crash, they’re still often no match for the weight of a big truck if it tips over onto them. As a result, victims of truck rollover accidents risk sustaining severe crushing injuries.
In a Rollover, Big Trucks May Dump Their Cargo
Rollover accidents can cause trucks to dump their cargo, which may mean additional hazards to others on and near the road, and first responders at the scene. A trailer that rolls might spill boxes or pallets that block traffic and create a high risk of a secondary accident. Similarly, a flatbed truck that rolls might leave its oversized cargo—such as heavy machinery—in the middle of a busy travel lane. And, a tanker truck that tips might spill liquid that makes the road surface slick, release potentially toxic chemicals into the air, or ignite and explode.
Rollovers May Leave the Truck Completely Out of Control
You might think a truck that rolls over comes to a stop pretty quickly. But, that’s not always the case. Sometimes—on steep hills or slick roads, or at high speed—a truck that rolls may keep rolling or sliding, effectively becoming a bulldozer that sweeps everything in its path until it comes to rest. Needless to say, this sort of rollover accident can cause massive destruction and injuries.
What To Do After a Syracuse Truck Rollover Accident
The actions you take in the minutes, hours, and days after a Syracuse truck rollover accident can have a material impact on your wellbeing and your rights. Following these tips may help.
1. Call 911 to report the accident.
Calling 911 will summon local police, first responders, and cleanup crews. Chances are, the services of all three will be needed at the scene of the rollover, so call right away. Tell the dispatcher what happened and about any injuries you or someone else may have suffered.
2. Take your cues from the truck driver as you determine whether to move away from the scene.
Do not attempt to approach a truck after a rollover collision. Even if the truck seems to have come to a full stop, it may still sit precariously, which could increase the risk of it tipping over again. If a tanker truck has suffered damage in a collision, it may leak toxic or flammable materials that could harm you.
Pay attention to what the truck driver does (assuming the trucker can get out of the cab). Follow any advice the driver gives you about how far away to move from the truck to protect your safety. Do not, however, leave the scene of the accident unless you need to protect your own physical safety or avoid further personal injury, or if you need to seek immediate medical attention. If you do leave, notify the police about your intent to leave the scene of the accident and your proposed destination.
3. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Regardless of whether you feel injured, let an EMT check you over at the scene of the truck rollover. If the EMT tells you to go to the hospital, follow that advice. If not, then still follow up with your regular doctor or at an urgent care center within 24 hours.
This is important to protect your well-being. Some potentially life-threatening injuries do not necessarily show symptoms right away, and the stress of getting into a rollover accident may mask the pain you would otherwise feel. The longer you wait to seek medical attention, the worse your injuries could get, which puts your health at risk and may also jeopardize your legal rights to seek financial compensation for your injuries and losses.
4. Contact an experienced Syracuse truck accident attorney.
An experienced Syracuse truck accident attorney can explain your rights and options for seeking compensation from anyone at fault for the rollover accident that injured you and represent you in legal actions seeking that compensation.
Contact a truck accident attorney in Syracuse as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the more difficult it may become to collect evidence and prove your case. If you wait too long to speak with a lawyer, you may lose your rights to compensation altogether.
Who is at fault for a Syracuse rollover truck accident?
If you sustained serious injuries in a Syracuse truck rollover accident, then someone likely owes you compensation. An experienced truck accident attorney’s job is to identify who that someone is. Every Syracuse rollover accident differs, but in general, any of the following parties could face legal liability to you for your injuries and losses.
The Truck Driver
A truck driver who makes a poor decision behind the wheel that leads to a rollover may owe compensation to anyone harmed in the accident.
The Trucking Company
A trucking company that employs the driver and/or owns the truck equipment that rolled may also owe damages to injured accident victims. Trucking companies have duties to maintain their fleet in safe working conditions and to hire and train competent drivers. Their failure to fulfill those duties can lead to a rollover.
A Mechanic Who Worked on the Truck
If a mechanical failure causes a truck to roll over, then liability for the accident could also fall on a truck mechanic or maintenance contractor who should have spotted and corrected a problem with the truck before it took to the road.
The Truck Manufacturer
If a defect in the truck or one of its parts caused a rollover, the manufacturer of that equipment could face liability as well.
Want to learn more about your rights after getting injured in a Syracuse truck rollover? Contact an experienced local truck accident attorney for a free consultation.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.