Large trucks like semi-tractor trailers weigh up to 30 times more than passenger vehicles. This enormous weight combined with their size makes large trucks extremely
on the road. Crashes involving trucks can be catastrophic and/or fatal to passenger vehicle drivers. For example, data gathered by Patino Law shows 67% of truck accident deaths are passenger vehicle occupants.
Trucks require about 40% more distance to brake than smaller vehicles. On wet roads, they need even more distance. Unfortunately, the need for extra stopping distance contributes to crashes when truck drivers become tired or distracted. Unlike passenger vehicles, a truck driver can’t slam on the brakes at the last second to avoid an accident.
Even though truck accidents are often caused by a distracted truck driver, every passenger vehicle driver is responsible for avoiding and preventing truck accidents. That doesn’t mean passenger vehicle drivers are always legally responsible; it just means drivers need to take responsibility for driving safely around trucks to be aware enough to avoid a preventable accident.
Semi-tractors and trailers are unpredictable
No matter how good you get at predicting what other passenger vehicle drivers are going to do, it’s nearly impossible to predict what a truck driver will do on the road. For example, trucks are so big that it’s hard to tell when they’re drifting into your lane until they’re already over the line.
If you’re far enough away from a big truck, you might see the truck starting to weave, but that’s hard to see when you’re right next to the truck.
All drivers should be defensively driving at all times to keep the roads safe. You can never control other drivers, you can only control your own vehicle. As long as there are distracted drivers on the road, you have to pick up the slack to avoid an accident. You can ignore it and say, “if they’re driving distracted, that’s their problem,” but in reality, it can quickly turn into your problem.
Why do truck drivers get distracted?
Just like everyone else on the road, truck drivers have lives and they want to stay in touch with their friends and family. Cellphones are the easiest way to stay connected. Spending long hours driving makes chatting away on the phone and texting even more desirable. However, just like passenger vehicle drivers, cellphones make truck drivers prone to distracted driving.
To combat the problem of distracted truck drivers causing accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued restrictions for commercial truck drivers banning them from:
- Sending or reading text messages
- Reaching for their phone
- Holding a phone to make or take a call
- Dial a cellphone if it requires pushing more than one button
- Accessing a webpage
- Using email and instant messaging services
Although these actions are illegal, many truck drivers disregard the law.
How to avoid a truck accident
Tractor trailers and semi-trucks don’t have great visibility. Even with multiple mirrors, they have big blind spots on both sides. If you can’t see a truck driver in their rearview mirror, they can’t see you.
Given a truck driver’s poor visibility, here are some tips for avoiding a crash with a large truck.
1. Pass large trucks quickly
Just as you’d pass any other car on the highway, pass large trucks quickly. Don’t hang out next to a truck for longer than it takes for you to pass.
You’re not likely to get pulled over for speeding up to pass a large truck unless a cop doesn’t see you pass the truck and only sees you driving fast at the end. Speeding up to pass a truck is generally accepted as the right way to pass.
2. Avoid driving between two trucks
When you’re driving between two trucks and the truck on your left needs to exit the highway, you could be in trouble if the truck doesn’t see you. If you see a group of large trucks and one heads over to the far right lane, they’re probably going to exit. Wait to see what the other trucks do before zipping up to pass the group of trucks.
3. Keep your brights off when passing
Turn your headlights down when passing a large truck. Your headlights can bounce off of a truck driver’s mirror and blind them temporarily, which can be extremely dangerous for everyone.
Don’t engage in distracted driving
The best way to avoid any accident is to always make sure you are not driving distracted. You need all of your attention on the road to avoid a truck accident.