According to the Alabama Department of Motor Vehicles, a typical driver in the Yellowhammer State has greater than a one in three chance of being in an auto accident involving injuries or fatalities. Though commercial truck accidents account for a relatively low percentage of the overall vehicle crashes in the state, colliding with an 18-wheeler can be especially dangerous and deadly, particularly for drivers and passengers in the other vehicle (or vehicles) involved.
What Causes 18-Wheeler Truck Accidents?
Countless large trucks drive through Alabama each day transporting goods to various destinations. Because 18-wheelers occupy so much space on the road and have larger blind spots than other vehicles, the risks of an accident are higher when you are driving near a commercial truck.
There are a number of reasons 18-wheeler accidents occur, some of the most common include:
- Aggressive Driving:Trucking companies often place unreasonable and unrealistic deadlines on their drivers. The pressure to deliver their cargo on time can lead to aggressive driving tactics, such as speeding, tailgating, and running a red light. These types of traffic violations can endanger everyone that shares the road with an 18-wheeler.
- Driver Fatigue:Unreasonable and unrealistic deadlines cause many truck drivers to be on the road for too many consecutive hours. This can lead to drivers becoming tired and fatigued, which often results in poor driving decisions and drivers falling asleep at the wheel.
- Driving while Intoxicated (DUI/DWI):Some truck drivers choose to get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs. In some cases, this is simply careless and reckless behavior on the part of the driver. In other cases, the driver may be taking prescription drugs to relieve their pain or help them stay awake. In either case, driving while intoxicated inhibits the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle in a safe manner.
- Distracted Driving:Texting while driving, looking up addresses, or any other activity that causes a driver to take their eyes off the road poses a serious danger to everyone around them. In fact, the Alabama DMV reports that a texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into an auto accident than a non-texting driver. Despite the obvious danger, distracted driving is a growing problem among drivers of all types of vehicles, including commercial trucks.
- Jackknifing:When an 18-wheeler is poorly maintained, has faulty equipment, is driving in poor weather conditions (such as slippery or icy roads), or the driver is making poor decisions on the road, it can lead to serious mishaps. One of the scariest occurrences is when a commercial truck skids and is pulled in two different directions, giving the appearance of a folding pocket knife. This is known as “jackknifing”.
How to Avoid Commercial Truck Accidents
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the number of fatalities resulting from large truck crashes is on the rise. In 2016, (the most recent year on record) just under 4,000 people were killed in large truck accidents, which was 27% higher than in 2009. 66% of those killed in truck accidents were occupants of cars and passenger vehicles, and 16% were motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
Commercial truck accidents can be avoided if motorists are proactive and take certain precautions to ensure their safety when driving near a large truck. Here are five steps drivers of passenger vehicles should take to avoid an accident with an 18-wheeler:
- Stay Out of Blind Spots
18-wheelers have four blind spots; up to 20 feet in front of a truck, up to 30 feet behind a truck, and one blind spot that is adjacent to each side mirror. Some large trucks are now equipped with more specialized mirrors to help reduce the size of their blind spots. Whether a truck has this equipment or not, it is best to stay out of areas where the truck driver may not be able to see you.
- Keep Your Distance
Remember that large trucks cannot make turns and slow down/stop the vehicle as easily as passenger cars. For this reason, it is best to keep a safe distance when sharing the road with an 18-wheeler. Avoid tailgating commercial trucks, and if they are tailgating you, move to another lane when it is safe to do so and let them pass. Also remember to give trucks plenty of room when they are making a turn.
- Do NOT Pass a Large Truck on their Right
Large trucks have blind spots on both sides, but the blind spot on their right side is larger. For this reason, it is a good practice to avoid passing a truck on their right. If you want to pass a truck, only do so if there is a left lane available.
- Avoid Sudden Stops
When you are driving in front of a large truck, always try to avoid slamming on the brakes and making a sudden stop. Remember again that the truck behind you cannot slow down as quickly as you, so stopping suddenly can create a dangerous situation.
- Stay Attentive
It is always good practice for drivers to stay alert and aware of what is going on around them while on the road. This is especially true when driving near an 18-wheeler. Be attentive and avoid any distractions such as texting or talking on your cell phone. Always be aware of what the truck is doing, so you are ready to react accordingly and maintain your safety.
Injured in an 18-Wheeler Accident?
Accidents happen, even after drivers take every possible safety precaution. If you or a loved one was recently injured in a trucking accident, it is important for you to understand your rights and options. Contact Jones and Associates today at (334)699-5599 for a free consultation with one of our experienced and skilled Alabama personal injury attorneys.