Today, there are approximately 7.6 million active semi-trucks and trailers sharing the roadway with motorists. With that in mind, there are important safety considerations that motorists should be aware of to avoid potential accidents when traveling alongside commercial vehicles.
Keep Your Distance
Trucks often weigh up to 30 times more than passenger cars. This makes it more difficult to drive than a regular passenger vehicle. Keeping a sufficient amount of distance between your vehicle and a truck can be key. Should a truck collide with a car, it stands to reason that the lighter, smaller vehicle will take the brunt of the impact. In addition, with a greater ground-to-vehicle clearance, a smaller vehicle can easily slide underneath a truck in a crash.
Motorists also need to be aware that trucks cannot stop as quickly as cars. The heavier the truck, the harder it is to slow down and stop. On dry pavement, a loaded tractor-trailer takes up to 40% more distance to stop than a car. That number increases tremendously on wet or slippery pavement. Also, traveling down steep hills or making sharp turns is more difficult, and can cause the truck to go out of control or, worse yet, cause a rollover.
Blind spots can also be a problem. Many motorists are unaware of just how many areas a truck driver is unable to see. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created a campaign to educate drivers about the dangers of “no-zones.” This term refers to the large blinds spots found on large commercial vehicle. While all vehicles have blind spots, those on a semi-truck are significantly larger and more dangerous than blind spots on a passenger car. In fact, a FMCSA report states that one-third of all crashes between cars and trucks take place in the no-zone!
Truck Driver Fatigue
Truck driver fatigue is another contributing factor in truck and car accidents. Although the federal Hours of Service regulations allow up to eleven hours of driving in one stretch, many drivers violate this regulation and drive many more hours than allowed. This can lead to slower reaction times, careless driving and falling asleep at the wheel.
Unfortunately, being involved in an accident with a truck can present a variety of legal challenges.
Typically, trucks are driven for a particular company, which usually means there is a sufficient amount of insurance to handle a potential large claim. Keep in mind, however, that there may be more than one entity responsible for the accident. Was it the truck driver’s negligence? The truck driver’s company’s fault? Was there a vehicle malfunction? Was the truck overloaded?
There are many federal and state rules and regulations that need to be reviewed to determine responsibility for a truck accident. If you are ever involved in an accident with a large commercial truck, it is important that your attorney have an understanding of these rules and regulations in order to hold the appropriate entity responsible.
In the end, defensive driving is your best bet when sharing the roadway with large, commercial trucks.