Whenever there’s an accident involving a big rig, many of us assume that it involved driver fatigue. But according to a surprising new study from Europe, we’re jumping to the wrong conclusion.

In all the accidents studied involving big trucks (624), only 6 percent had fatigue as the main cause. And of those accidents where fatigue was the main cause, 90 percent occurred on highways. In fact, fatigue is rarely a factor in accidents in cities, according to the study. Human error accounted for more than 85 percent of the accidents. But in the instances where the accident was caused by human error, the truck driver was at fault only 25 percent of the time.

Another interesting point made by the study is the specific times of day when fatigue was most often the cause of accidents. The study found that between 2-3 a.m. was a prime time for fatigue-related accidents (understandable), as was between 3-3:50 p.m.! (They figured that maybe the afternoon hour was close to the end of the working day.)

While fatigue was the main cause in only 6 percent of the accidents involving big trucks, 37 percent of those accidents proved to be fatal.

Five types of accidents accounted for the vast majority of incidents: at an intersection; in a line of vehicles; changing lanes; passing another vehicle; and accidents involving an individual truck.

The most frequent cause of accidents for truckers — as well as other motorists — is a failure to adapt speed to road conditions and a failure to observe intersection rules.

The report makes several recommendations, including the use of adaptive cruise control, awareness campaigns about safe distances and speeding and the suggestion that drivers’ education material should be revised to better explain truck maneuvers.

http://ohsonline.com/articles/2010/08/02/eu-study-confirms-truckers-cause-few-accidents.aspx?admgarea=news?http://www.unece.org/trans/events/docs/2010/WCTR2010_Huegel_Paper.pdf?•