How Common are Truck Accidents?
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration there were over 450,000 large truck crashes in 2017 alone. Of that number, 107,000 were injury-related crashes and 4,761 involved fatalities. Tragically, Florida has ranked in the top three behind Texas and California for the most fatal crashes involving trucks.
Why are Trucks So Dangerous?
The above statistics demonstrate that tractor trailer crashes can be catastrophic and life ending. But the question is why. Here are several reasons why truck accidents are so dangerous:
1. Weight of the Trucks: While most cars average 3,000 to 4,000 pounds, trucks are far heavier. The weight of a truck and trailer ranges between 50,000 to 80,000 pounds. The differential between the two goes without saying. When a smaller vehicle and a larger, heavier truck collide, the car will likely be more damaged and the passengers more likely to be seriously injured or killed.
Another issue with the weight of the trucks is that they require greater distances to stop or slow, and it takes longer for them to accelerate. This creates a major issue with sudden traffic stop or slow down which can cause rear end crashes, as well as situations where they pull into traffic or attempt to merge.
2. Length of the Trucks: The length (as well as the height) of trucks creates huge blind spots also called “no zones” in front, behind and along the sides of the trucks. While truck drivers undergo special training and instruction about how to signal in advance and change lanes gradually and with ample notice, that doesn’t always occur. Their length also comes into play when making wide turns.
3. Improper Cargo Storage: Semi trucks can carry thousands of pounds of cargo. If the
cargo is not properly secured and falls off; the results can be catastrophic. The unsecured or improperly secured cargo can damage another vehicle or injure its occupants. In other situations, drivers may swerve or brake to avoid the falling cargo, causing a crash.
Other times, accidents occur when items are not properly secured by proper cargo ties with anchor points on the truck. Failure to check cargo weight and ensure it is properly secured may allow the truck to shift. This may cause the truck’s center of gravity to change abruptly and cause the truck to overturn or go out of control.
4. Driver Fatigue: While there are laws and rules which limit the number of hours a truck driver can be on the road or “hours of service,” trucking experts say that sometimes drivers take on too much work or are under time pressures to deliver their loads.
Many, including the National Safety Council, argue that drowsy driver equates to impaired driving.
5. Speeding: It is never safe to speed, but it is particularly dangerous when truck drivers speed. Trucks need more time to slow and stop than passenger vehicles, particularly in inclement weather. Truckers who speed are more likely to lose control of their truck, resulting in devastating jack knife or roll over crashes.
6. Impaired Driving: Drug or alcohol use can be a major cause of trucking accidents in Florida, as well as around the country. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has special regulations
that govern alcohol and drug use. In fact, truck drivers are not allowed to have alcohol within four hours of their shift starting. There are also special requirements imposed as to alcohol and drug screening prior to hiring and after fatal crashes.
7. Poor Maintenance and Equipment: Many truck accidents could be avoided with proper inspection, maintenance and repairs. In fact, federal guidelines impose a requirement of pre-trip inspections, as well as inspections after every day’s work. A written report must be completed which outlines any defects or deficiencies.
Truckers are mandated to inspect at least the following:
• Parking and service brakes
• Lights and reflectors
• Tires, wheels and rims
• Windshield Wipers
• Coupling Equipment
• Emergency Equipment
Tips to Avoid an Accident with a Truck
While sometimes accidents are unavoidable, here are some suggestions on what drivers can do to minimize the risk of an accident with a truck or commercial vehicle:
• Stay Back and Maintain Distance: Many trucks or semis have warnings like “stay back 50 feet” by a sign or reflective sticker. Heeding those warnings can often mean the difference between life and death, especially in inclement weather. A large truck can limit your visibility of what’s ahead. Leaving that extra space gives you more time to react if you need to stop or swerve.
• Stay out of a Truck’s Blind Spot: Many drivers mistakenly assume that truck drivers can see them on the road. Unfortunately, despite the use of mirrors on a truck, there are blind spots. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t see the truck driver’s reflection in the mirror, he can’t see you. Especially avoid the truck’s right side when the truck is turning right.
• Be Careful When a Truck is Turning: A truck needs more clearance space to turn than a regular passenger vehicle. Also, a truck has less visibility. Always assume that a truck will require most of the intersection to make a turn and stay out of its way.
• Use Caution When Pulling Over: When possible, do not pull over onto the side of a highway or turnpike. If you must pull over, try to find a wide shoulder or designated pull off spot. Also, even in daylight, put on your emergency lights to alert other drivers. Many accidents occur when a commercial truck veers slightly onto the shoulder, striking a disabled or pulled-over vehicle.
• Avoid Distractions: It goes without saying that you should avoid distractions while driving. Using your cell phone while driving is never a good idea.
• Do Not Drive Between Trucks: Trucks are large vehicles and take up more space on the roadway. Placing yourself between two trucks is unsafe, as you can be boxed in with a limited chance to react in emergency situations.
• Follow Proper Passing Protocol: Trucks take substantially longer to slow down or come to a stop than a smaller vehicle. While it is okay to pass a truck, do so with caution and follow this protocol.
1. First and foremost, do not pass a truck on the right. Passing on the left maximizes visibility.
2. Also, do not change lanes directly in front of a truck. Because of the size and height of a truck, if you cut directly in front of a truck, your vehicle can completely disappear from the truck driver’s view. Do not change lanes until you can see the entire front of the truck in your rear-view mirror. A good rule of thumb is at least one car length for every 10 mph you are traveling between you and the truck before passing and pulling in front of the truck.
3. Do not try to pass a truck that is backing up or preparing to back up. When a truck is backing up, oftentimes it blocks the street and objects that suddenly come between them and loading areas. You are most likely in the driver’s blind spot.
Following the above tips will hopefully help you and your loved ones avoid the devastating results of a truck accident. However, if you or a loved one has been involved in a trucking accident in Jupiter or Port St. Lucie, it is crucial to obtain representation that is knowledgeable regarding these unique cases.