While we wish it wasn’t true, the road is a dangerous place. Even small cars have the potential to cause severe, catastrophic, or even fatal injuries, but when the vehicle responsible for a collision is a semi truck, the consequences can be devastating. A tragic amount of lives have been lost or changed forever with permanent catastrophic injuries due to negligence, poor maintenance, and other avoidable errors on the part of truck drivers.
We all know how frightening it can be when you’re driving down the highway and an enormous truck pulls up in the lane beside you. You might clench the wheel or say a prayer. You might speed up or slow down to get away. While we hope you never get into a collision with a truck, knowing the common causes of truck accidents can help keep you safe. We hope these tips help prevent further tragic crashes.
If you or someone you know has been in a collision with a truck, we know you’re going through a difficult time right now. Sadly, there are financial and legal considerations to contend with while you deal with the emotional fallout. Contact the office of Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst for a free consultation to discuss your potential case.
Common causes of truck accidents
Over 4,000 people in the United States died in truck collisions in 2020. While we’d love to tell you this number is decreasing over time, it isn’t true. The number has remained largely unchanged since the 1970s. Trucks are a crucial part of our economy, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll be going away anytime soon, so it helps to be educated on the risk factors.
About 5,000 fatal truck crashes occurred in 2019, and about 13% involved a fatigued truck driver. Trucking is an exhausting, monotonous line of work that involves working long hours. It should come as no surprise that drivers get tired. This is especially true when truckers get low-quality sleep in their rigs and disturb their sleep schedules with inconsistent hours. Driving drowsy is comparable to having a blood alcohol level of .05%.
Distracted driving is a problem for everyone who drives a motor vehicle, causing 3,142 deaths in 2020 alone. Considering the momentum, size, and power behind a truck, the consequences of distracted trucking are far more severe.
Distracted driving takes many forms. Some truckers operate their phones, while others manipulate the radio settings to stay entertained. Some also eat and drink at the wheel to avoid spending valuable time stopping for a meal.
Work Zone Hazards
In 2020, over 100,000 collisions took place in work zones, causing almost 900 fatalities. Almost 30% of these crashes involved large trucks. Drivers may move slower in work zones, but traffic starts and stops frequently, and narrowed lanes make maneuvering difficult for large vehicles like trucks.
Poor Vehicle Maintenance
Most truckers try to keep their rigs in good condition, but trucks spend far more time on the road than other types of vehicles, and those miles add up. There’s also sometimes a discrepancy between who is supposed to maintain a truck if the driver isn’t an owner-operator. Worn tires are a common example of a hazardous issue, causing blowouts that can send rigs careening or force them to stop in unsafe conditions.
So what can we do to avoid truck crashes?
Because trucks will continue to occupy our highways and roads for the foreseeable future, all we can do is adapt and try to stay as safe as possible. These tips will help.
Always try to remain visible
Trucks are both taller than other vehicles and have larger blind spots. If you can’t see the driver in their side mirror, they likely won’t be able to see you. When in doubt, the best rule of thumb is to always assume the driver can’t see you and maneuver the road accordingly. Be extra careful if a truck turns their blinker on while you are beside them. In a pinch, you may need to slow down or speed up quickly.
Following a truck too closely is dangerous for two main reasons. The first is that the trucker may not be able to see you if you’re too close. The second is that the height of a truck may prevent you from seeing important signage along the road. If you miss a sign indicating roadwork or a lane closure, you risk rear ending the truck when it slows.
If a truck isn’t maintained well, the potential fallout is also more dangerous when you’re following closely. Should a truck experience a tire blowout, for instance, the flying rubber might hit your car or obscure your view, making it even more difficult to get out of danger.
If you find yourself stuck behind a truck, go ahead and pass them. That brings us to our next tip.
Sometimes trucks drive slowly, and you’ll inevitably need to pass them. When you do, remain hyper aware of the truck’s movements, and always try to see the driver in their sideview mirror. We also recommend avoiding passing trucks on their right side, as trucks tend to run in the right lane and sometimes pass into it quickly. When you must pass, be quick without risking further danger.
Prepare for wide turns
Large trucks almost always need more room to complete turns, so be sure not to block them at intersections or try and squeeze by them while they turn. Oftentimes, trucks will use an additional lane as part of their turning radius, so keep that in mind too.
Trucks are massive, so they require significantly more time to speed and slow down than other cars due to their momentum. This can be frustrating, but it’s important to let them take the time they need. The slower they go, the safer they’re being. If you speed up too quickly or get aggressive, this can cause an accident.
Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst will stand with you
While we hope these tips help you to prevent collisions with trucks, the sad truth is that truck crashes will still happen. If you or your loved one is involved in a collision, an expert truck accident lawyer will make the process of dealing with the aftermath much simpler. The team of Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst have decades of experience dealing with auto injury law. If we decide to work together, we promise to always be honest, transparent, and work toward achieving a positive outcome for you. Contact us today for a free consultation.