Semi-truck accidents make-up a small percentage of total motor vehicle accidents, but they cause more destruction, more severe injuries, and have a greater percentage of fatalities. The reasons are obvious – their size is mammoth compared to a car, they weigh up to 20 times more, they take longer to stop, and they have more (and bigger) blind spots.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports a total of 3,986 people died in large truck crashes in 2016. Of these fatalities, 66 percent were occupants of passenger vehicles. By comparison, the National Safety Council reports that as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents in the same year.
There is some good news. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports the total number of freight transportation-related fatalities declined by 23.8 percent from 2000 to 2015. This is largely due to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration efforts to increase commercial motor vehicle safety.
All other drivers on the road can also play a part in reducing the number of semi-truck accidents.
The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration offers these tips to help drivers share the road safely with semi-trucks:
One reason driving alongside a truck is dangerous is because the driver may not be able to see you there. Commercial drivers have blind spots on both sides of the vehicle, as well as at the front and back. It’s especially important to stay out of these “no zones” when a truck is turning, backing up or changing lanes.
Many commercial vehicles have speed governors that prevent them from driving past a certain speed. If you need to get past a truck, make sure you are far enough back to see the driver in the mirror. Signal and pass on the left, taking care not to linger in the driver’s blind spot.
There are other reasons to avoid driving alongside or closely behind trucks. For instance, if the truck blows a tire, you could suffer serious injury, plus damage to your vehicle, if you’re too close. Trucks make wide right turns, so if you’re in the blind spot when a driver needs to make a turn, you could be in trouble. In addition, if you’re driving too closely behind a truck and fail to stop in time or are hit from behind, your vehicle could slide under the truck.
Compared to a 3,000- to 4,000-pound car, a tractor trailer can legally weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. A fully loaded truck traveling 65 miles per hour will take almost the length of two football fields to stop in ideal conditions. Avoid cutting off trucks and leave enough distance between you and any truck behind you for safe sudden stops.
And finally, any time you’re on the road, whether you’re driving near a big truck or not, stay focused and avoid distractions. Distracted driving is anything that diverts your attention away from the primary task of driving. When you are alert and aware, you can be sure that you’re doing your part to stay safe on the road.
Casey & Devoti is a St. Louis-based personal injury law firm. Together Partners Matt Casey and Matt Devoti have nearly 40 years of trial experience. They handle a variety of personal injury matters, including: car, truck and train accidents, victims of impaired and distracted driving, medical malpractice and birth injuries, product liability, slips/trips/falls, elder care and sexual abuse, Workers’ Compensation, and wrongful death. Matt and Matt proudly serve clients throughout metropolitan St. Louis, southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois. If you or a loved one have been injured by the negligence of another, call the office today for a free, no-obligation consultation: (314) 421-0763.