In some parts of Texas, large commercial trucks can make up one in every four vehicles on the road. These large trucks cross back and forth across the nation and across the state of Texas, delivering cargo as quickly as possible. Large commercial trucks are considered to be any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight in excess of 10,000 pounds, although a semi-truck and loaded trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds.
While semi-trucks account for only 4 percent of all vehicles on the highways, they account for 9 percent of the total miles traveled. There are nearly 500,000 accidents involving large commercial trucks every year, resulting in 4,000-5,000 deaths, and 95,000-150,000 serious injuries. The majority of the fatalities in a truck/passenger vehicle collision are among those in the passenger vehicle—about 72 percent. In 2013, Texas led the nation in fatal truck crashes with 493, although North Dakota led the nation in the highest percentage of trucks involved in fatal crashes at 29 percent.
To avoid becoming a statistic, it is important that you learn the “rules” for sharing the road safely with commercial trucks. These rules include the following:
- Watch out for a truck’s blind spots. Nearly a full third of fatal crashes which occur between passenger vehicles and commercial trucks happen because of one of the four major blind spots a truck driver has. These blind spots are on either side at the front of the trailer, directly behind the truck and directly in front of the truck. You need to ensure the truck driver can see you in his or her mirrors, and avoid staying in these blind spots. If you are in one of the blind spots on either side of the trailer, make sure you watch out for the truck changing lanes without seeing you. Don’t linger in the truck’s blind spots, and if you cannot see the trucker in his side mirrors, he probably cannot see you.
- If you are passing a truck, do so with caution. For maximum visibility, pass on the left side, and maintain a consistent speed as you pass. If a truck is passing you, and will be moving into your lane, in front of you, you might think about speeding up so you don’t end up stuck behind the truck. Don’t do it! A truck is unable to stop as quickly as a passenger vehicle. If you cut in front of the truck, then hit your brakes due to a vehicle in front of you, you risk being rear-ended by an 80,000 lb. truck. In other words, even when it is an inconvenience to you, don’t take chances with your life.
- Don’t get caught between a turning truck and a curb. When a truck is preparing to make a right-hand turn, you will probably notice that it swings out wide to the left. If you are in the space between the truck and the curb, you could end up either hit, or trapped in that space. When a truck turns, the rear wheels follow a shorter path than the front wheels. The longer the truck, the greater the distance. Wait to see which direction the truck is turning, then make sure and give it plenty of room.
- Watch out for underride accidents. Never, ever tailgate a large commercial truck. Even though underride bars are required on most large commercial trucks, there is a variation in the specifications for those bars. In fact, the underride bars on American trucks are significantly less strong than those Canadian officials require for their large trucks. The goal of an underride bar is to prevent a car from going under the trailer, shearing away the top half of the vehicle. When underride bars were tested, they remained stable only when the car hit them directly in the center at lower rates of speed (35 mph).
- Always remember that it takes much longer for a large commercial truck to stop than for a passenger vehicle. When a truck is traveling 55 mph, it can take the full length of a football field for it to come to a complete stop.
- Remember that in inclement weather, a large commercial truck can splash or spray snow, water, or mud directly on your windshield. If you are not expecting this sudden spray, you could end up having an accident as a result.
- Getting impatient while a truck is backing up. It takes time and concentration to back a 48-ft. trailer up without hitting anything, and can take several attempts to maneuver the truck into a tight space. Impatience will not speed up the process.
- Turn Down Your Brights. If you are behind a large commercial truck at night, make sure you turn down your bright lights. Bright lights can impair the truck driver’s vision, making it more difficult for him to see the road and avoid collisions.
- Signal sooner, rather than later, if you are in front of a large commercial truck. This gives the truck driver plenty of time to respond to your turn.
- Finally, pay attention to your driving! This is true whether there are large trucks in the vicinity or not. Americans are hard-core multi-taskers, and these behaviors carry over into their driving. This is one area where multi-tasking is not a good thing. When you drive—drive. Don’t do anything else. Don’t eat. Don’t talk on your phone. Don’t text. Don’t turn around to see what your children are doing in the back seat. Don’t fiddle with the radio or GPS. Don’t pay more attention to the conversation you are having with your passenger than to the road and other drivers. Finally, forgo daydreaming until you are at home, sitting on your porch swing. Distracted driving is dangerous all the time. If there are trucks in the vicinity, distracted driving is even more dangerous.
CONTACT A HOUSTON TRUCKING ACCIDENT ATTORNEY TODAY
If you or someone you love has been injured in a trucking accident in Houston or anywhere in the state of Texas, call a Board Certified personal injury attorney specializing in trucking accidents to evaluate your potential claim.