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Tractor-Trailers: Avoiding Truck Accidents

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Tractor-Trailers: Avoiding Truck Accidents

When a tractor-trailer truck hits you, you have a much higher risk of catastrophic injuries or even death from the truck's large size and heavy weight. Even an empty truck and trailer weigh thousands of pounds more than your passenger vehicle. You can minimize the chances of getting into a tractor-trailer accident by taking certain actions when you share the road with these large trucks.

Tractor-Trailers: Avoiding Truck Accidents

How Big Can Tractor-Trailers Get?

You’ve likely seen plenty of tractor-trailers out on the road, so you can imagine their size. Can you transfer what you see into weight? The average passenger car weighs about 3,778 pounds. A pickup weighs about 4,438 pounds. Minivans weigh about 4,485 pounds.

Compare that against the weight of a tractor-trailer. A fully loaded tractor-trailer that doesn’t have an oversize load weighs 80,000 pounds. If a big rig should flip over on top of your vehicle or hit your vehicle, even at slow speeds, that 80,000 pounds will likely crush your 4,000-pound passenger vehicle.

Additionally, trucks have a very large turning radius when pulling a trailer. The average two-lane road extends 24 feet wide. A truck and trailer have an average turning radius of 55 feet—more than four standard road lanes. The driver must ensure that they have room to maneuver the trailer. The total length of a tractor-trailer can reach 70 to 80 feet, depending on the length of the cab and trailer.

Causes of Truck Accidents

In some cases, trucks strike passenger vehicles because truckers do not clear their blind spots. In these cases, you might have a claim against a truck driver that caused the accident and the trucking company that employed them.

Other causes of truck accidents include:

  • A tired driver.
  • Distracted driving.
  • Driving under the influence of legal or illegal prescription drugs, illicit drugs, or alcohol.
  • The weather.
  • Poor road maintenance.
  • A malfunctioning truck and/or trailer.
  • A new part, such as brakes, malfunctioning.
  • Speeding, including excessive speed.
  • Ignoring traffic signals.
  • Taking a curve too fast for the truck, such as on highway off-ramps.
  • Inexperienced drivers.
  • An incorrectly loaded truck.
  • Load straps not properly tightened or that came loose during transport.

Avoiding Tractor-Trailer Accidents

When sharing the road with a tractor-trailer, you can take several actions to reduce the risk of getting into an accident. Granted, you can’t always avoid an accident, but you can reduce the risk.

Know the Locations and Sizes of a Tractor-Trailer’s Blind Spots

A tractor-trailer has large blind spots, including in front of and behind the truck. Most people realize that the driver has a blind spot on the left but do not think of the truck's front blind spot.

The left blind spot starts under the driver’s mirror and continues about halfway down the trailer. It takes one lane. The right blind spot starts forward of the driver’s passenger door mirror and continues to the end of the trailer. It takes two lanes.

The front of most tractor-trailers has the vehicle’s most dangerous blind spots. Many people believe that because a driver sits so high, that they can see right in front of the truck. When you merge within 10 to 15 feet in front of a truck, the driver cannot see you. Most trucks have a blind spot that extends about 20 feet to the front. Thus, you should always ensure that you can see the full width of the truck in your rearview mirror before you merge. Using your passenger door mirror does not get you far enough in front of the truck.

Finally, the rear blind spot extends about 40 feet behind the truck. If you tailgate a truck, the driver cannot see you. Hang back far enough that you can see the driver’s face in the side driver mirror. Otherwise, you run the risk of an underside crash if the truck driver has to stop suddenly, and the driver may not even realize that you slid under the truck.

Watch for Erratic Driving

If you ever see a tractor-trailer weaving in its lane or even crossing the white or yellow lines, do not pass the driver, who may be distracted or fatigued. Instead, stay at least 200 feet back. If the truck travels too slowly for you, get off at the next exit and take a break, then get back on the highway.

If you do have to pass the truck, do so with extreme care. You cannot predict whether the driver will swerve again. If you hang back and see that the driver does not swerve again, you may pass with extreme caution.

Stay to the Left

Always pass on the left side of a truck. Never pass on the right. The right-side blind spot extends much farther than the left, and more importantly, the driver may fail to notice someone passing on the right.

When driving on a multi-lane highway, where right-lane traffic travels faster than the lanes that trucks use, you should keep two lanes between you and the truck, if possible.

Additionally, when driving on surface streets, stay to the left or behind a truck. Never pass on the right. If the truck stops at a stoplight and the right lane is the turn lane, check that the driver does not have her turn signals on before pulling up to the light in the right turn lane.

Truckers have to make wide right turns because of the turning radius of a tractor-trailer. If the driver in the left lane has his turn signal on, wait until the truck turns before you pull up to the light. Truck drivers generally can’t see their entire right sides when driving.

If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a tractor-trailer wreck, contact an experienced tractor-trailer accident attorney today for a free case evaluation, during which you can determine your eligibility to pursue financial compensation.

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