With over 5,000 people dying in truck crashes each year on our nation's highways, it is important for every driver to understand all of the ways to avoid being involved in such a collision.
1. Stay Out Of The Truck's Blind Spots - If you are sharing the road with a commercial motor vehicle such as a tractor-trailer, either trail behind the truck at a safe distance or pass it quickly. Do not ride along beside the truck! Most crashes between cars and trucks occur when a truck changes lanes and collides with a passenger vehicle. Don't get caught in the blind spot.
2. Leave Yourself An Escape Zone - When passing a tractor-trailer, you should always plan on the truck coming over on you in your lane. If you plan for such an emergency, then you will be prepared in the event it happens and have a plan for what to do. The most important thing to plan for is where to move your car. For example, if you are passing a large truck on an interstate highway, do not attempt to pass while you are crossing a bridge. Why? Because there is no where to move your vehicle in the event a truck comes over into your lane. Instead, wait until you have an open stretch of highway with a wide shoulder before you start your passing maneuver.
3. Watch For Signs Of Fatigue - You should assume that every truck driver you encounter on the highway is fatigued. While this is not true, it is true that "truck driver fatigue is a major source of fatal crashes." By watching for fatigued truck drivers, you will be better prepared to deal with the types of driving behavior by a tractor-trailer driver that can lead to a fatal crash. If you observe a truck weaving within its own lane - you should presume that the truck driver is fatigued, and you should back off from the truck and contact law enforcement authorities immediately. If you observe a tractor-trailer slowing way down and then speeding up, you should presume that the truck driver is fatigued and report it. Do not waste time or put yourself in harms way by trying to get the trucker's license number or truck number, simply contact authorities and report your location. They will do the rest.
4. Watch For Aggressive Driving - If you observe a tractor-trailer driver cut another driver off, or if you see a truck driver speed past you at a dangerous speed, you should be pro-active and report the dangerous driver to law enforcement authorities. As the old saying goes, the life you save could be your own.
5. Use Extreme Caution When Stopping On The Highway Or Entering The Highway - Large trucks can not stop in the same distance that a passenger vehicle can. In fact, a tractor-trailer driving at 55 mph will take approximately 400 feet to come to a complete stop. This means that if you must stop on the highway, you should leave plenty of space in front of you for an escape route in the event of an emergency from behind. Further, you should keep your eyes open and frequently glance in your rear view mirror. Likewise, when entering a highway in front of a tractor-trailer, you should make sure that your turn signal is "on" and that your speed is greater than that of the truck as you merge onto the highway.
6. Use Extra Caution In Bad Weather And At Night - Most bad crashes happen at night. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is that visibility is decreased at night, and truck drivers sometimes do not see what is there to be seen. For this reason, you must use extra caution at night and during bad weather when visibility is less than normal. You must ensure that all of your lights are working properly and that you can see out of all of your windows and mirrors. If visibility is seriously reduced because of rain, fog or snow, then you should turn your hazard lights "on" and maintain a safe following distance. Also, truck drivers are supposed to reduce their speed by one-third (1/3rd) in bad weather, so you must also be on the lookout for slow moving trucks and avoid running into the back of them.
Following these common sense steps can help you reduce your chances of being in a deadly collision with a commercial motor vehicle or other heavy truck. I have discussed the dangers posed by these big rigs in other articles.
At Davis Law Group, we advocate for stricter rules regarding the number of hours that truck drivers can drive without taking a rest break, we seek harsher penalties for those trucker drivers and their employers that turn a blind eye at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, and we urge lawmakers to increase the minimum amount of insurance that truck drivers have to carry on their commercial motor vehicles.
If you have questions about this article or ways that you can help make our roads safer, contact Asheville Truck Accident Attorney Brian Davis.