Every year, many drivers and passengers are involved truck accidents. The resulting personal injury and property damage can be more than just frustrating. It can be life-changing as well as life-ending. According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), around 5,000 fatal truck-related crashes happen each year.
What makes truck accidents so likely to be catastrophic? For one, trucks are far larger than motorcycles, cars, or even SUVs and vans. Therefore, the sheer force of the collision spreads more intensely.
Another problem is that trucks may jackknife onto other vehicles or may spill flammable or toxic contents. These contents can make the situation more dangerous, as in the case of a sudden fire that gets in the way of pulling injured survivors from vehicles.
You should make sure that your driving behaviors reduce your risk of getting into an accident with a truck. Though not all accidents are avoidable, some can be mitigated by following several strategies.
Avoid Driving in the Truck’s Blind Spots
Like all drivers, truck drivers have several known “blind spots” or no-zones. These zones are located in areas where the truck driver cannot clearly see if a vehicle is in front of or adjacent to the truck.
The known blind spots for a truck are directly in front and behind, and along the sides toward the back. As a rule, the truck driver probably cannot see you if you cannot see any of the truck driver’s mirrors. Even if you can see the mirrors, you should try to move out of the blind spot as quickly and safely as you can.
Remember that trucks are not able to maneuver as effectively and smoothly as a car can. Even if a trucker sees you in a no-zone at the last minute, the trucker may not have enough time to avoid making impact.
Add to Your Typical Following Distance
Think back to when you first learned to drive whether it was last year or decades ago. You were likely advised to keep a generous following distance between you and the car in front of you. A sizeable following distance gives you the runway you need to put on the brakes if the car stops suddenly.
When traveling in front of or behind a truck like a tractor-trailer, space yourself as far away as comfortable. Never tailgate against a truck because you could end up rear-ending the trailer or cab. If you do, you and your car will be in far greater danger of injury and damage than will the truck.
Expect Trucks to Make Wide Turns
Have you ever stopped to watch a truck make a right turn or left turn at an intersection? During right turns, the trailer can often cross over into the adjacent lanes. During left turns, the trailer may veer toward the left.
You do not want to be caught in between the area of the cab and trailer during turns. Consequently, you need to pay attention to each truck driver’s intentions. Watch for turn signals so you’re aware of when the truck is turning left or right.
If you find yourself caught near a turning truck, you may be able to move backward if no other vehicles are behind you. Just remember that truck drivers have blind spots when turning, too. It is up to you to stay alert and aware.
Move Out of The Traffic Lane If You Need to Stop
Imagine: you are driving along the highway when your engine starts to make strange sounds. After a few miles, you become concerned. Even though there are no exits coming up, you decide to pull onto the shoulder to examine under the hood. When you do, ensure that you pick a spot where you are not sticking out at all.
The problem is that trucks on the same highway may end up sideswiping your car if you are even slightly in the lane. Again, truck drivers do not have the same leeway to get out of the way rapidly. If a truck collides with your stopped car, you can be sure that the car will suffer a lot of damage and may be totaled. And if you are waiting inside, you could be hurt or killed.
Pass Trucks Cautiously
When it is time to pass a truck, pass on the left. Passing on the right keeps you in the truck driver’s blind side for a long time. On a multi-lane highway, you could end up getting sandwiched between two large trucks and be in both their drivers’ no-zone areas.
Usually, passing a truck going uphill or downhill puts you too close to the truck. Additionally, the truck may end up swerving into the passing lane if the curves are particularly exaggerated. Try to keep all your passing on straight roads.
When you do pass a truck, maintain a steady speed. Avoid matching the speed of the truck. Instead, speed up just enough to get ahead. Once you have passed the truck, wait until you are sure the truck driver can see you before merging into the lane in front of the truck.
Stick to Roads with Fewer Trucks
The longer you drive, the more likely you will be to notice that some roads attract more trucks than others. For instance, interstate highways and toll roads tend to have a lot of trucks, as do industrial roads and parkways.
One way to avoid getting into a truck accident is to find alternate routes when you travel. While it is not feasible to avoid all trucks, you can minimize their impact on your journeys.
Leaving your home or office earlier or later also may help you spend less time driving with big rigs and very large trucks. Some apps can even tell you when traffic is heaviest and most apt to be congested with trucks carrying cargo.
Keep Your Temper in Check
Many drivers feel annoyed by truckers, especially if they are “caught” behind trucks going uphill. Truck drivers cannot compel their vehicles to go faster on steep inclines. Car drivers must be aware of these limitations of trucks and learn how to accept them.
If you habitually drive aggressively, find ways to work on staying calmer behind the wheel. This will help you lower your chances of getting in any kind of crash, whether with a car, truck, or other vehicle.
Some good ways to become a less competitive driver include leaving earlier so you are not running late, performing deep breathing when you start to get angry, and rewarding yourself every time you make smarter driving decisions. Remind yourself that it is far easier to change your habits than it is to deal with the traumatic aftermath of a truck accident.
Keep Tabs on Weather Conditions
The weather can take a turn for the worse without much warning. Suddenly, you may be driving in fog, rain, sleet, hail, or snow. When that happens, slow down and always let trucks pass you by.
It can be difficult to drive on major highways and thoroughfares in nasty weather conditions anyway. Add fast-moving trucks into the mix and you may become anxious. If necessary, pull over to a safe spot or take the first exit and try to find someplace to wait out the weather.
Avoid All Distractions
Like some of the other recommendations for avoiding a truck crash, this is one that pertains any time you drive. Put your cell phone on silent or vibrate. Secure all loose items. Limit your radio use, particularly if you are driving along unfamiliar roads or during bad weather.
The less distracted you are, the easier it will be for you to concentrate on making wise choices as a driver. Every time you are tempted to do something distracting, like reading a text or sending a short email, keep your impulses in check. They could save your life or someone else’s life.
Use Your Signals and Never Speed
Turn signals are critical tools that help your fellow drivers understand what you plan to do next. Make sure you use them all the time with enough advance notice so truck drivers can anticipate where you want to go.
In addition to signaling, always drive within the posted speed limit. Even if trucks are speeding, stay the course. Let them pass you by. Not only will you be less apt to get in a truck crash but you could avoid being given a ticket, too.
What Should I Do If I Am Hurt in an Accident with a Truck?
In the event that you do get into an accident with a truck, take care of yourself and anyone else who needs medical attention after the collision. Then, consider talking with a lawyer who specializes in truck accidents. Truck accidents can be challenging to navigate alone because of the potential for shared negligence between many parties. It can be simpler to allow a lawyer to work on your behalf while you recover.
Truck Accident Survivors Choose Ellis Law, P.C. New Jersey Truck Accident Lawyers as Their Legal Representatives
If you or someone you love was injured in a truck accident, do not wait until the statute of limitations runs out. Contact one of our New Jersey truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law, P.C. Call our Freehold office at (732) 308-0200 or fill out our online form. We handle cases in places including Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Ocean County, and Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York