It can be scary to drive alongside a large 18-wheeler on one of Louisiana’s highways. The truck dwarfs your car or SUV, and you can hear it thundering as it rumbles down the road. What would happen, you might wonder, if the truck driver made a mistake? Could you get out of the way? Would you survive a collision?

These are important questions, and they deserve consideration. The truth is that trucks are massive, dangerous vehicles, and truck accidents are far more dangerous that standard auto accidents. Even though most truckers are skilled and responsible drivers, the latest data from the Department of Transportation shows that truck accidents have been on the rise. There are simply more trucks on the road—and more chances for things to go wrong.

Seven leading causes of truck accidents

Truck accidents aren’t just different from smaller auto crashes because of how deadly they are. They’re also more complex when it comes to assigning fault. In a standard auto crash, you have two drivers, each responsible for their own vehicle. But in a truck accident, you may have two drivers—plus a trucking company, manufacturers, third-party maintenance companies and a host of state and federal regulations.

The fault in a truck accident may lie with any one of these parties or, more often, different combinations. Victims often need help to sort through the common causes, which a Department of Transportation study reported are likely to include:

  • Brake problems
  • Speeding
  • Drivers unfamiliar with the roads
  • Bad roads
  • Over-the-counter drug use
  • Distraction
  • Driver fatigue

Notably, the Department of Transportation cited “interruption of the traffic flow” as the number one factor in crashes between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles. This category includes drivers who cut off large trucks, poor traffic merging and other crashes or incidents that cause sudden traffic stalls. It’s a reminder that when you’re near large trucks, you need to drive carefully and respect the extra time and space those trucks need to stop.

Use your knowledge to your advantage

Naturally, it’s not enough simply to know what causes truck accidents. The information only becomes meaningful when you make use of it. You can drive more carefully around trucks. Leave them extra space. Watch out for swerving or any signs of confusion or distraction. Remember that when the roads are slick or twisting the trucks may have as hard a time with them as you do.

Hopefully, keeping these things in mind when you drive near large trucks will help keep you safe. But if the worst should happen, the fact you understand the complexity of truck accidents may help you recover more fully.