There’s nothing better than seeing a tow truck when you’ve had a breakdown on the road—they’ll fix a flat, bring you gas, or tow you to your house or a repair shop. However, tow trucks can also cause accidents, some involving serious injuries and death. The weight and size of a tow truck, even without the weight of the vehicle it is towing, creates a higher chance of property damage and severe injuries, whether it’s a single- or multiple-vehicle accident.
Tow Truck Accident Causes
Tow truck accidents happen more often than you may think, While tow truck drivers are required to carry a special license and undergo extra training, these things can’t eliminate the driving conditions and human and mechanical failures that lead to accidents. Some of the causes of tow truck accidents include:
Poor Weather Conditions
Inevitably, your vehicle picks the worst time to break down. Many times, vehicle failures are triggered in poor weather, just when you want to get out of the rain or snow. When a tow truck has to come out in poor weather, the risk of getting into an accident is higher—just as it is for you when you drive in poor weather. Although tow truck drivers typically have more experience driving in bad weather, wet or icy roads may still lead to tow truck accidents when drivers fail to account for road conditions. Furthermore, it’s harder to bring a truck of that size under control, especially if it has another vehicle loaded up.
Tow truck drivers, too, are prone to cause accidents due to driver error. Tow truck drivers are susceptible to the same complacency as other drivers that leads them to accidents.
Driver errors include:
- Not following the rules of the road, including staying within the speed limit, yielding to oncoming traffic, obeying traffic control signals, and staying a safe distance from the vehicle in front of the tow truck.
- Distracted driving, including talking on the phone, texting, eating, or even watching the vehicle on the tow truck through the rearview mirror or side mirrors.
- Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other illicit substances. In some cases, tow truck drivers may drive under the influence of prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
- Poor driver reaction, which may be overcompensating for a slip or slide, turning too sharp to avoid missing a turn, or changing lanes at the last minute to avoid missing an exit.
- Inattention to the road in front of the driver. Because of the weight of the truck and its cargo, a tow truck driver needs even more space and time to come to a safe stop.
- Improperly loading a vehicle on the tow truck, which could cause the towed vehicle to fall off the truck. The towed vehicle could land on cars near it or slide off the back and into someone following the tow truck.
A tow truck is at a higher risk of having a mechanical mishap than other big trucks simply because tow trucks do not have to have to undergo inspections each time the driver goes on a run. In other cases, a tow truck driver might not report a mechanical error since downtime for repairs means losing out on business opportunities. Tow truck companies often put repairs off until the problem becomes serious or causes an accident.
Tow truck mechanical failures that may lead to accidents include:
- Engine and transmission problems that could cause a driver to lose control.
- Wipers not working properly.
- The defroster doesn’t clean the windows, so the driver has to constantly wipe the windows clear. The driver has obstructed vision, plus he or she has the distraction of wiping the windows while driving.
- Tire blowouts.
- Frayed cables and other problems with the winch, cables, and chains used to load and hold the vehicle on the bed of the tow truck.
- Wipers not working at all or not properly clearing the window.
- Burned out lights, including tail lights, brake lights, and headlights.
Poorly Maintained Roads
Poorly maintained roads could also cause a tow truck to lose control. A pothole that is deeper than it looks, debris in the road, a washed-out road, or a road that has not been treated in snowy or icy weather could cause the driver to wreck, even if the driver is driving carefully and slowly to attempt to compensate for the conditions.
Unlike other vehicles, tow trucks have another vehicle loaded on their beds. The towed vehicle does not sit still. The suspension on the towed vehicle causes it to bounce around while it is on the tow truck. An innocent-looking pothole or uneven lanes in a construction zone could cause a tow truck driver to lose control and crash into other vehicles around it.
After a Tow Truck Accident
Make sure you seek medical attention immediately after a tow truck accident. Even if first responders release you from the scene, it’s a good idea to go to the emergency room to get fully checked. Let your insurance company know about the accident, but only give it your contact information, the date and location of the wreck, and your attorney’s contact information.