Your 3,000-pound car collided with an 80,000-pound tractor-trailer. Something very bad likely happened to you, loved ones or your vehicle.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration wants to know why. The agency, for the first time in more than 15 years, will take a close look at large truck accidents.

Nothing new: Distracted driving

The FMCSA has not studied 18-wheeler accidents since reviewing 120,000 crashes from 2001 to 2003. One new area of concern is the impact of modern technology on driver behavior, especially distractions. Are truckers talking on their phones or engaged in social media instead of focusing on the road? In-cab navigation and fleet management systems also will be parts of the study.

To be sure, distracted driving has been a problem among truckers for decades. They have always taken their eyes off the road to talk on their radios, eat, drink and so on. Traditional issues that also are part of the new study are:

  • Fatigue from too many hours behind the wheel
  • Unrealistic delivery schedules that cause drivers to speed
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs
  • Inadequate training
  • Poor truck maintenance

Something new: Rising fatality rates

Following the last study, fatal crashes involving large trucks fell to 2,893 by 2009. That was the good news. The bad news: The trend then reversed itself, with fatalities jumping to 4,415 in 2018, a surge of 52.6%. From 2016 to 2018, fatal crashes rose 5.7%

Researchers want to know why deaths are increasing, despite advances in safety technology. They also will study personal injury and property damage accidents involving big rigs.

By their very nature, truck accidents pose a great risk to people in smaller vehicles. The legal issues are more complex, too, because of trucking regulations.

Nothing new: Protecting yourself

More good news: Researchers may help prevent future large truck accidents. The study may reshape safety technology, influence driver behavior and improve roadway design.

More bad news: In the meantime, accidents will continue to happen. Motorists and truckers alike must practice safe driving habits to prevent tragedies.