Sharing the Road with Tractor-Trailers

Have you ever heard of the 3-second rule? No, not about how long dropped food can be on the floor and still be OK to eat.

The National Safety Council recommends you leave at least 3 seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you. To do that, pick a roadside marker up ahead and note when the vehicle ahead of you passes the mark. A minimum of three seconds should pass before you reach that same point. This great rule of thumb works no matter what type of vehicle is traveling in front of you.

Defensive driving is important no matter what you are driving or what vehicles are around you. According to a recent study by Auto Insurance Quote, West Virginia ranks among the 10 worst states for fatal car accidents.

Tractor-Trailers Pose Specific Dangers

Driving near large commercial trucks (semi-trucks, tractor trailers, and 18-wheelers) requires unique strategies because these vehicles are longer and have a wider steering ratio/turning radius, slower stopping times, and bigger blind spots.

Tractor-trailers can measure around 72 feet long (longer if carrying more than one trailer), 13.5 feet tall, and 8.5 feet wide. They can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, a significant difference when compared to the average weight of a compact car, 2,900 pounds, or even a large SUV, 5,600 pounds.

With these statistics, it is easy to see how a car-tractor trailer accident can be devastating for the car driver. In 2019, more than 4,000 people died in large truck crashes. The majority – about 67% – were occupants in passenger vehicles.

To help the public better understand how to share the road with large trucks, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) began a program called Share the Road in 1986. They offer some of the following tips.

You will be less likely to have a collision with a semi-truck if you take the following precautions:

  • Avoid blind spots. The largest blind spot for a truck driver is their right side. Their view could be blocked for three or more lanes. Semi-truck drivers also have limited views directly in front of the cab and behind the trailer. Avoid being in these zones so the driver can see you.
  • Pass quickly. You should never maintain a driving position beside the semi. Safely speed up to pass the truck quickly, driving closer to the edge of the lane farthest from the truck. When passing a large truck on the interstate, always pass on the left side to avoid their big right-side blind spot.
  • Dim the bright lights. Driving around other cars with your bright headlights is never a good idea, but it is especially true for driving around semi-trucks. Bright lights reflecting off large truck mirrors can cause temporary blindness of 2 seconds (that’s about the length of a football field) or more when traveling at 55 mph. Lower your bright lights when you’re within one block of a semi. An accident can easily happen in those 2 seconds.
  • Don’t cut off a large truck. Prevent a rear-end collision by making sure you see the entire front of the semi-truck before merging in front of it. Remember that semis require longer stopping distances, so you never want to be too close to the front of the truck.
  • Always signal. Since truck drivers require more time to react to changing conditions, always use signals when making lane changes. Like our 3-second rule mentioned earlier, you should signal for at least 3 seconds before making the change, giving the truck driver plenty of notice so they can slow down or move over if needed.
  • Keep a safe distance. Not being too close to a semi-truck is not only about avoiding collisions. Strong winds can cause roll-over accidents and truck tires can blow out. You want to leave plenty of room for you and the truck driver to maneuver.

Understanding the limitations that truck drivers have with visibility and turning, and driving defensively to avoid those limitations, will go a long way in preventing dangerous truck accidents.

When Accidents Happen

While most accidents involving 18-wheelers are caused by passenger cars, there are times that the truck is at fault.

The most common causes of truck accidents include:

  • Driver fatigue
  • Distracted driving
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Speeding
  • Poor truck maintenance and training

If possible after an accident with a commercial truck, it is important to get the driver’s full name, the company they work for, and any employee identification. Take pictures of the accident and get the names and contact information of any witnesses. Make sure to call the police so an official accident report is created.

Protect Your Interests

When a truck operator is at fault for an accident, their insurance company will do their best to minimize your injuries and shift blame to you. They will often offer a small settlement. Remember that these insurance companies are not in business to protect your interests.

At Katz, Kantor, Stonestreet & Buckner, we have 85 years of experience in helping clients seek fair compensation. Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be entitled to compensatory and/or punitive damages. You have two years from the date of the accident to file a negligence claim.

If you are injured in a tractor-trailer accident, call us today at (304) 713-2014 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and learn more about next steps.


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