Avoiding Trucking Accidents with Defensive Driving
Every 15 minutes, someone is killed or seriously injured because of a trucking accident. The nature of a trucking accident differs from a car accident because of the sheer weight and size of a truck: making contact with a smaller car is far more devastating than a car hitting a car equal in size. Additionally, trucks are usually carrying a significant load that can fall over easily, crushing cars or other passing vehicles. These accidents usually affect more than one car because of a truck’s size: it can span all the lanes of a highway if it veers out of control or tips over.
Statistics from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute state that cars are at fault 81% of the time for these incidents, whereas the trucks themselves are at fault 27% of the time. Common causes of trucking accidents include:
- Distracted driving, or driving under any type of impairment (such as drowsiness or driving drunk)
- Ignoring road signs
- Improper maintenance of the truck that leads to mechanical failures
- Failure to slow or stop on steep hills
- Unbalanced freight load, or overloaded weight
Personal Injury Cases Involving Trucks
Personal injury cases ultimately come down to fault. Whoever was negligent on the road is usually the one at fault, but this must be determined by a thorough investigation. The victim of a crash must assemble a team of attorneys from a truck accident law firm and present the case in court. To do this, they must work closely with an investigative team to create a clear picture of what happened and who was clearly at fault.
With truck accidents, there’s typically more evidence or data points available than in a standard car accident, simply because trucks have so much technology. Because truckers are working while operating the vehicle, the employers have thorough technology to assess things like their driving time, their driving direction, and anything that happens in or around the truck.
Points that will be investigated include:
- The dash cam footage from the truck
- Black box downloads (a black box in a truck records the driver’s driving time)
- GPS Data from the truck (which shows where it was going when)
- Vehicle or maintenance issues
- Improper loading of the truck
- Damage on the physical cars which can drive conclusions about fault
- Driver log books (where the truckers must log their time spent driving, time spent not driving, and any other notable aspects to log).
Tips for Being a Defensive Driver
The following tips will help you be defensive on the road, and can help you avoid not only trucking accidents, but any type of car accident.
- Keep a fair share of space between you and any car you are approaching, and brake early when their brake lights come on.
- Whenever you have to brake suddenly, safely brake, then look in your rearview mirror to make sure the car approaching behind you is slowing down. If they are not paying attention and not slowing down, look left and right to see where you could potentially move to get out of their way and avoid an accident.
- Remove any and all distractions while you’re on the road. Put your phone on silent and keep it in your purse or your glove compartment, and refrain from eating or drinking at the wheel. If you have young children in the car, be wary of the distractions they may pose and make sure to keep a balance between looking in the rearview mirror at them in the backseat and keeping your eyes on the road.
- Never go into a car’s blind spot. For trucks, this is even more important since they have such a large blind spot on large vehicles. This is infamously referred to as “no man’s land” because the blind spot is so big and there are serious dangers of staying in the blind spot. A truck has three blind spots, as opposed to smaller cars which just have one. These three blind spots are:
- Directly behind the truck in their lane
- Directly in front of the truck in their lane (especially if you have a very small car that will be hard to see over the front of the truck)
- On either side of the vehicle
Yes, trucks do have several large mirrors to help them see within their blind spots, but never rely on these. When passing a truck, pass only to their left side (the driver’s side to increase their chance of seeing you), and pass quickly yet safely to ensure minimal time within their blind spot. If you cannot pass quickly for whatever reason (or it does not feel safe to do so), fall back a little to go back into the driver’s line of sight.
You are in the driver’s line of sight when you can see their reflection in their side mirrors. Heed the common sign, “If you can’t see me, I can’t see you.” If you cannot see the driver in their mirror, make sure to slow down or pull back, or if it’s safe, quickly move forward into their light of sight. Make sure to use your turn signal and even flash your lights (especially at night when it is dark on poorly lit roads) to make sure the driver can see you and knows that you are passing. If the truck moves over to your lane at the same time that you are passing, it can be devastating.
Never tail a truck, even if they are in the left lane and you can’t get around them. The driver cannot see you, so this is a futile effort. Give yourself plenty of space between you and the truck. Additionally, if a truck is driving behind you, be wary and keep your distance. The driver has been trained to also keep a fair distance because of this blind spot in the front, but in order to be truly defensive, it’s up to you to stay away.
Additionally, never be on a truck’s right side when it’s about to turn right. The driver has a lower chance of seeing you, and the nature of a right turn for such a large vehicle requires an extra lane at times. They may not see you and could sway into your lane depending on the size of the truck.
To avoid devastating trucking accidents, it’s important to review these defensive driving tips and steer clear of trucks. The further the distance between you and the truck, the less likely it is that a collision can occur. Because true accidents can happen: such as the teetering of a truck’s load off the truck itself and onto nearby cars, it’s important to be alert, keep focused on the road, and to continue to assess the risk around you while you are driving. If a truck’s load looks to be unstable, call law enforcement to report it and save other lives.