According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truck driver errors account for nearly one-third of truck/passenger vehicle accidents. Because large trucks weigh 20 to 30 times as much as passenger vehicles, when they two are involved in an accident, the results can be deadly. In 2018, more than 4,000 people were in accidents involving large trucks. Of those, 67 percent were in passenger vehicles, 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcycles. When you look at those resulting in death, a whopping 96 percent of those killed were the occupants of passenger vehicles.
Fatigue is the biggest culprit. Research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that truck drivers behind the wheel for more than eight hours at a time are twice as likely to cause a crash. Under current Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, commercial truckers are not allowed to drive for more than 11 hours at a time. The same study found that truck drivers reporting hours-of-service violations also report falling asleep at the wheel at least once in the previous month. In another study based on a national sample of driver’s logbooks reviewed after crashes, logbook violations increased the likelihood that the truck driver precipitated the accident.
Defective equipment can also play a role in truck/passenger vehicle accidents. Brake failures were the most common equipment failure cause in 42 percent of crash-involved truck accidents investigated. Plus, trucks require greater stopping distances than passenger vehicles and poor maintenance of truck braking systems—especially older systems—can be a factor. Fortunately, antilock brakes have been required on new tractor-trailer trucks since 1997 and on new trailers, single-unit trucks, and buses the following year.
Just as distracted driving accidents are on the rise among passenger vehicles, the same is true for truckers. Drivers who send texts are 23 times more likely to be involved in a “critical safety event”, according to a 2009 distracted driving study conducted by the FMCSA. Distractions can also mean glancing at a billboard or anything that takes their eyes (and mind) off the road.
Another place to be extra diligent on the highway with commercial trucks is in work zones. Anyone who’s lived in Florida for any length of time knows the congestion and confusion that can be caused by shifting lanes, miles of barricades, and construction crews working at night under bright sodium halide lights. Disruptions such as flaggers and construction trucks entering and exiting the highway can also add to the uncertainty. Over the past five years, more than 1,000 people were killed and another 18,000 were injured in work zone accidents involving large trucks in the U.S. Of these accidents, most are rear-end collisions since it takes trucks longer to slow down or stop than it does for cars.
Here are some tips that can help you stay safe while sharing the road with large trucks.
- Be visible. The bigger the vehicle, the bigger the blind spot. If you can’t see the truck driver in their side mirror, chances are they can’t see you either.
- Pass with care. Never pass on a downgrade, and always give trucks extra space. If a truck is trying to pass you, give them room, stay in the right lane, and slow down.
- Never cut a truck off in traffic. If you dart in front of a truck, they can’t slow down or stop as fast as you can, and often you’ll be in their blind spot—especially if you’re driving a small, low-to-the-ground vehicle.
- Never tailgate. You can easily slide under the truck in a crash. Be sure to give trucks extra space when stopped in traffic in case they roll backward when they start moving.
- Wide turns should be expected. Trucks need a lot more room to maneuver, so don’t block intersections or try to squeeze by a truck that’s making a turn.
- Practice patience. It takes longer for big trucks to accelerate, so be patient and resist the urge to pass, which can also distract the truck driver.
If you’re involved in a large truck accident, it’s important to seek medical attention and the advice of proven, trial-tested personal injury attorneys like those at Fernandez & Hernandez Attorneys At Law. You can reach them for advice 24/7 by calling (813) 229-5353. Hablan español.