Safe Driving Tips to Prevent Truck Accidents
As heavy truck traffic increases on the roads, safety is a major concern. Many trucking companies have rigorous safety standards in place to prevent truck accidents, yet the number of truck accidents in Pennsylvania continues to rise.
In heavy truck accidents, many times the cause of the accident is due to the actions of passenger car drivers. In fact, statistics show that passenger car drivers contribute to more than 70 percent of crashes!
As the driver of a passenger vehicle, realize one of the best ways to prevent being in a semi-truck accident is to follow the tips below for safe driving around heavy trucks.
Heavy Truck Traffic - National and Pennsylvania Statistics
Nationwide, semi-truck traffic grew by 22.9 percent between 2010 – 2018, and truck traffic is projected to increase by more than 55 percent in upcoming years, according to the US Department of Transportation.
In our rural Northern section of Pennsylvania, natural gas production plays a large part in our heavy truck traffic. When production is up, truck traffic is up too.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) found that Pennsylvania produced its largest volume of natural gas in a single year in 2019 – making our state the second largest producer of natural gas in the country behind Texas.
All that natural gas production work means there are more heavy trucks on the road and drivers must be more vigilant to prevent being in a heavy truck accident.
Fortunately, fatalities from heavy truck accidents have decreased by 20 percent since 2016 in Pennsylvania. However, more heavy truck accidents are occurring. Out of more than 125,000 reportable traffic accidents in Pennsylvania, more than 7,300 involved tractor trailer trucks – the highest number of heavy truck accidents since 2015.
Truck Accidents Often Caused by Unsafe Driving
An easy definition for what constitutes unsafe driving is anything that distracts a driver from paying attention to driving. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), more than 88 percent of large truck accidents in 2019 were caused (in part or fully) by unsafe driver behavior.
Unsafe driver behaviors that often lead to heavy truck accidents include:
- driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- driver fatigue or drowsy driving
- driver error – such as speeding, overlooking blind spots or confusion
- driver distraction or inattention – like dialing/typing on mobile devices, writing something down, looking at a map, personal grooming, reaching for an object or eating
Prevent Truck Accidents with Safe Driving Habits
Sharing the road with tractor trailer trucks and other heavy trucks is very different than sharing the road with other cars. Extra safety precautions must be exercised.
Heavy trucks often weigh 20-30 times more than passenger cars, have greater height and ground clearance, and have larger blind spots. Due to their size, semi-trucks require more space to maneuver and it takes longer to pass them than a regular vehicle.
Additionally, the distance required to stop for semi-trucks and heavy trucks is 20-40 percent farther than cars and it could be more on wet or slippery roads.
Never cut off a truck or brake suddenly in front of a truck.
Due to their weight, tractor trailers and semi-trucks take much longer to stop than passenger vehicles. With a full load, a semi-truck driving at 60 miles per hour could take up to the length of two to three football fields to stop. Additionally, heavy trucks have a blind spot of about 20 feet in front and, if they were distracted when you cut in front the truck, the driver may not even see your vehicle.
Image credit: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Stay out of the “No Zones” - Be aware of truck’s blind spots.
Tractor trailer trucks have large blind spots on all four sides of the truck (see the graphic). Their blind spots are much larger than those in cars, minivans or SUVs. Be careful to stay out of these “no zones.” Assume that if you cannot see the truck driver in their mirrors, they cannot see you.
When driving next to a truck or in their “no zones,” also watch out for road debris or tire retread. Vehicles in these areas are more likely to be hit by debris kicked up by the heavy truck wheels.
Image credit: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Pass safely and promptly.
When passing a heavy truck, be sure to use your turn signal and clearly merge into the left lane. Pass the semi-truck safely and quickly to avoid blind spots. Be mindful that on hills or downgrades, heavy trucks often pick up speed, so don’t pull in front of them unless you are prepared to speed up.
When merging back in front of the heavy truck, be sure you can see the semi-truck in your rearview mirror. Provide a wide berth between you and the heavy truck to avoid the blind spot in front of the heavy truck.
Stay back. Don’t tailgate trucks.
Tailgating is always a dangerous driving behavior, but it is even more so when driving near a semi-truck. Besides the danger of road debris, a tire blowout or tire retread hitting your vehicle, tailgating heavy trucks puts you in an exceptionally dangerous blind spot.
If the semi-truck stops suddenly, tailgating vehicles may rear-end the heavy truck, hitting with the vehicle’s windshield instead of a front bumper. Depending on speeds, stopping time and other factors, the tailgating car could be fatally pushed under the truck as well.
Heavy trucks accelerate more slowly than passenger vehicles and they need more space to turn. Honking or weaving in and out of traffic because of a slowly-accelerating truck puts you and other drivers at risk of a truck accident.
Give heavy trucks time and space when you see their turn signals. Anticipate where the semi-trucks are going and give them the space they need to get there. Remember, large trucks may swing wide or start a turn from the middle lane to prevent hitting a curb. Never try to squeeze by a truck as they are turning.
Stay focused and stay alive.
Whether looking at a map, reading a text, dozing off or taking a bite of a messy burger, each of these actions takes your attention off of your main focus at the time – driving. Distracted driving is dangerous driving.
If you need to take a call, answer a text, examine a map, rest for a few minutes or anything else that prevents you from focusing on the road, pull over. The few minutes you spend focused on the issue may mean the difference between life and death.
Staying focused also means driving sober. Alcohol, drugs and medications may impair your judgement and reaction time. Some medications may make you sleepy, dizzy or slow to react – all of which could lead to dangerous or fatal heavy truck accidents.
If You are in a Heavy Truck Accident
Driving safely is the best way to prevent an accident with a tractor trailer. However, if something happens and you are involved in a heavy truck accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney like Doug Engelman, David Wilk or Gary Black of Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC as soon as possible.
The cause of the truck accident may be distracted driving or some other fault of the trucking company or driver. You may be able to receive financial compensation for the challenges that arise, such as medical costs, property loss, lost wages or pain and suffering.
A good truck accident lawyer will be able to examine your case, advise you on how to proceed and fight for your best interests.
Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC has won substantial settlements for our clients. Our truck accident attorneys’ insight into the insurance industry coupled with decades of personal injury legal experience provides the guidance our clients need to make things right.
Results with Cases Like Yours
Truck Accident Settlement of $5.44 Million - Personal Injury Attorney Doug Engelman provided personal injury legal help following a tragic truck accident negotiating a substantial settlement of $5.44 million dollars.
Truck Accident Settlement of $1 Million – Personal Injury Attorney Doug Engelman settled an automobile and truck collision case for $1 million dollars.
Truck Accident Settlement of $435,000 – Personal Injury Attorney David Wilk negotiated a settlement of $435,000 for an automobile and truck accident case.
Truck Accident Settlement of $315,000 – Personal Injury Attorney David Wilk settled a truck accident case for $315,000.
If you or a loved one have been in a heavy truck accident, contact Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC today! The consultation is free, but the results can be invaluable.