Driving near 18-wheelers and semi-trucks can be frightening. You do NOT want to have an accident with an 18-wheeler. Semis and rigs are much longer, higher, heavier, and wider than the average car, and a collision could be catastrophic. While lawsuits are often the best way to hold negligent truck drivers and defendants liable for your injuries, it’s even better if you can avoid the accident in the first place.
There are numerous inherent risks of being near an 18-wheeler or large commercial truck – even if the truck driver drives cautiously. Some of the biggest risks to drivers include:
- Large blind spots. Commercial trucks have massive blind spots in the front, rear, and sides of their vehicles. Even the most aware drivers, the ones looking in every direction while they drive, can fail to see you if the truck’s blind spot blocks the driver’s vision. They simply cannot see you.
- Cargo is likely to shift during transit. If the cargo is not properly secured, it can spill onto the highway. Drivers need to be ready to steer away from any cargo spills without driving into other cars. Some trucks are more likely to spill their cargo than others even when the truck is loaded according to proper trucking standards.
- Truck rollovers. The center of gravity of a truck is different from a car. This means that trucks are inherently dangerous because they are more likely to roll over when a truck goes through a curve.
- Truck jackknifes. Another inherent danger of trucks is that when an accident does occur, the trailer of the truck may end up at a 90-degree angle from the cab of the truck, causing the truck to spread across the highway.
- Unprotected underrides. Small cars should never be too close to a truck because trucks are high off the ground, and they don’t always have underride guards on all sides. In the event of a collision, a car can slide directly underneath parts of the truck, increasing the risk of fatal injuries.
- Driver negligence. At the end of the day, a negligent truck driver or trucking company may be the biggest risks to your safety. Drivers who are tired, distracted, rushed, or otherwise impaired may exhibit poor judgment, which can put you at risk. Companies which push their drivers to work harder and faster without any regard for safety are also a risk.
Strategies for driving near 18-wheelers and other large trucks
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is aware of the many different risks 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles pose to drivers. The agency suggests that car and motorcycle drivers follow these 10 rules:
- Never drive in a blind spot. “If you can’t see the driver in the vehicle side mirror, assume the driver can’t see you.” You should slow down or move forward to be sure the truck driver can see you. You need to be extra careful about truck blind spots when you merge.
- Pass safely. To move forward you should signal clearly and then move into the left lane. Then speed up so that you can move past the truck safely. Make sure you can see the 18-wheeler in your rearview mirror before you move in front of the truck. Never pass trucks on downgrades when the truck will pick up speed. Never pass on the right side of the truck since the driver will have great difficulty seeing you. If a truck is trying to pass you, give them all the room they need.
- Don’t cut it close. Per the FMCSA, “It’s especially dangerous to ‘cut off’ a commercial bus or truck. If you move in quickly, you’ll likely be in a blind spot. Even if you’re visible, the vehicle may not be able to “slow quickly to avoid a crash because of the amount of time it takes to stop.”
- Stay back. If you’re too close the truck driver’s blind spot makes it hard to see you. If the truck is carrying loose cargo, it can strike the car. If an accident occurs, your car might slide under the truck. Be extra careful to stay back when the truck is stopped – especially if the truck is on an upgrade.
- Be ready for wide turns. 18-wheelers need a lot of room to make a turn. Some semis and rigs may even start their turn from the middle lane. Never try to nudge past an 18-wheeler when it is turning.
- Be patient. 18-wheelers need time to accelerate. Some large trucks even use speed limiters.
- Wear your seatbelt. Make sure your kids are buckled up too. Seat belts save lives.
- Never drive while distracted. You need your hands on the steering wheel and your mind on traffic – especially when you are near a truck. Again, you do not want to be struck by a truck. You could die.
- Do not drive while you are tired. If you feel fatigued, get off the road as soon as you can. Fatigued drivers are just as big of a risk as drunk drivers.
- Never drive while drunk or under the influence of drugs. Alcohol impairs your ability to control your car. You should assume there is no safe limit. Even prescription drugs and other lawful drugs can cause your reaction time to slow. You should know which of the drugs you take might cause tiredness.
At Bailey & Greer, PLLC, our Memphis truck accident lawyers have the resources and experience to help you get justice when truck accidents happen. We file wrongful death actions on behalf of families when a loved one dies. We file personal injury claims on behalf of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians who are injured due to negligence or product defects. We demand compensation for all your personal and financial losses. To speak with a respected truck accident attorney at our Memphis or Jackson offices, call us at 901-475-7434 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.
As founder of Bailey & Greer, R. Sadler Bailey has battled his fair share of insurance giants and wrongdoers and has achieved numerous multimillion-dollar results for the victims of catastrophic injuries and their families. What’s more, he has been involved in more than 40 appellate court decisions affecting Tennessee personal injury law, including many landmark appearances before the Tennessee Supreme Court.
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