By: William “Bill” Hurst
Roughly 5.5 million car accidents occur each year, with nearly 35,000 people losing their lives as a result. According to the NHTSA semi-truck accidents severely injure or kill someone every 16 minutes.
Large trucks (vehicles weighing over 10,000 lbs.) are involved in 500,000 of these accidents.1 Out of those 500,000 truck accidents nearly 5,000 deaths occur, and many other serious injuries. Of those 5,000 deaths 98% are the driver of the other vehicle, not the truck.2 This means large trucks are only involved in approximately 1/10 (9%) of all traffic accidents, but account for 1/7 (14%) of all traffic fatalities. These figures also indicate that an accident involving a large truck is nearly twice as likely to result in someone losing their life. So, while truck accidents account for a relatively small portion of the overall traffic accidents, they are also much more dangerous.
There are a few different reasons truck accidents are dangerous, one which is extremely obvious, along with two others that may be a little less obvious:
Semi-Trucks or Tractor Trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, maybe more when fully loaded whereas an average car weighs roughly 2,700 pounds. Cars weigh so little comparison to these large trucks that in some instance the truck drivers don’t even realize they have hit or been hit by a car.
Because these trucks are so large they tend to have massive blind-spots, take up larger portions of the road, and are harder to drive. As stated earlier sometimes truck drivers don’t even realize they hit a car/got hit by a car and the fact that they have massive blind-spots means they may end up dragging a vehicle or not stopping at all.
These large trucks are also harder to drive, most notably harder to stop which leads to higher speed impacts and more damage.
Many large vehicles transport dangerous chemicals and flammable materials. This results in explosions, fires, and exposure to dangerous chemicals.
Combined, these three characteristics of Semi-Trucks create a dangerous situation for anyone sharing the road with these vehicles. This danger is only amplified by the poor driving practices of some drivers. Truck drivers have been known to speed, drive fatigued, and even drive under the influence of drugs in order to meet the goals their employers have given them.
Accidents will inevitably happen because people make mistakes, but here are a few pointers to help you avoid being involved in one of these horrific truck accidents3:
1) Beware of Blind Spots: Semi-Trucks have large blind-spots in the rear and sides of the truck. Before passing make sure the driver can see you and knows that you intend to pass. Using your turn signal well in advance is a great way to get the drivers attention.
2) No Abrupt Lane Changes: You whipping in and out of lanes and catching a truck driver off guard is the highway equivalent of someone antagonizing a rattlesnake. They will react unpredictably and it could end up deadly.
3) Avoid Getting Squeezed: Semis make wide turns. Allow room for them to do so and avoid getting squeezed up against a guard rail or another vehicle.
4) Keep a Safe Distance: DO NOT TAILGATE A SEMI. They have large blind spots as stated above. If they can’t see you, they cannot avoid hitting you.
5) Avoid Road Rage: We have all been in a situation where we get stuck behind a semi passing another semi on a two lane highway. It is frustrating, but reacting angrily can only lead to bad things.
While following these tips will reduce the chance that you are involved in one of these dangerous accidents the risk can never be completely erased. If you or a loved one are involved in one of these horrific and dangerous accidents it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately in order to ensure you are fully compensated for your injuries.