Trucks and other commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) bring to mind highways and open roads. In truth, they travel through many locations, including residential areas. CMVs associated with residential areas include buses, fire trucks, waste management trucks, delivery trucks and more. Sometimes other types of CMVs, like semi-trucks, appear in residential zones.
In residential areas, it is not just other vehicles semi-trucks must look out for. Residential areas are more likely than highways to have cyclists and pedestrians, who may be harder for a truck driver to see. Due to CMV braking capabilities, they may not to be able to stop in time to avoid tragedy.
Unraveling who is responsible for a truck accident is not always straightforward. Consulting an experienced truck accident attorney and the applicable laws will help you strengthen your case. Your attorney will further assist you with holding the correct parties accountable.
What is a Semi-Truck?
Semi-trucks go by many names, including 18-wheelers, tractor trailers, and “big rigs.” Their distinctive features include their five-axle design and number of wheels. Semi-trucks are quite large, ranging from 70 to 80 feet long. When fully loaded, they may weigh as much as 40 tons.
What Makes Semi-Trucks Dangerous?
The considerable size of a semi-truck makes it difficult to control. Drivers must earn a commercial driver’s license (CDL) from their home state before they are permitted to operate this CMV. They must also obtain a medical certificate confirming they are physically capable of the strenuous work.
Among the challenges of driving a semi-truck is its mass. Length makes it hard to see what is behind them, creating dangerous blind spots. It takes longer for them to come to a stop than a sedan. They require greater distances between other vehicles to brake safely. When loaded, their center of gravity is higher, increasing the risk of rollovers.
Wear and tear can cause low tire treads, weakening traction. Extreme instances can lead to blowouts, or a tire breaking while the truck is driving. This sudden instability can lead to accidents.
When a CMV like a semi-truck is on unfamiliar roadways, the driver is more likely to take their eyes off the road to consult maps or GPSs. In this distracted state, drivers are more likely to make improper maneuvers to correct for a missed turn or exit. Semi-trucks are unable to make tight turns, and as such may pose a danger for other vehicles. Sudden shifts in direction may also cause the semi-truck to tip over while moving.
Why Would Semi-Trucks Drive in Residential Areas?
Truck drivers are often under pressure to make strict deadlines, with incentives to arrive at destinations early. Those who are paid by the mile have further motivation to spend more hours on the road. Driving through a residential area may serve as a shortcut, allowing a driver to shave or add hours to their route as needed.
Other incentives for heading through residential areas include avoiding road construction and staying off highways allows drivers to circumvent tolls. CMV drivers may also say they were following their GPS, which gave them a misleading route.
Along with the hazards of a truck driver navigating unfamiliar roadways, is one who does so while in a hurry. The desire for speed may lead drivers to ignore local weight and traffic restrictions. CMVs require more length and time to brake, and a fully loaded vehicle with an already high center of gravity is a rollover hazard. All these risks increase the likelihood of an accident in a residential zone.
What are Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents?
- Fatigue: Despite guidelines from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recommendations, drivers may forgo sleep to reach their destinations quickly. In their tired states, they have reduced reaction times and pay less attention to the road.
- Distracted Driving:The FMCSA offers guidelines on how to use mobile phones safely while operating a CMV. The phone must be voice activated or use one-button touch functions, and the driver should use an earpiece or speaker option. Using a handheld phone or texting takes the driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, or the length of a football field. Their risk of causing a safety critical event like a crash is 23.3 times higher than non-distracted drivers.
- Alcohol or Drug Use: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 30 percent of all traffic accident fatalities involved drunk drivers. Alcohol impairs concentration, coordination, and the ability to track moving objects. It also reduces response times to safety critical events.Other substances such as methamphetamines and cocaine, sometimes used by truck drivers to stay awake, increase aggression and reckless behavior.
- Speeding:The FMCSA describes CMVs driving too fast as moving at a greater speed than is reasonable for safe driving. There are multiple circumstances where speeding means something other than exceeding the posted limit. When weather makes the roads slick with precipitation or reduces visibility, it is best to move at a reduced pace. Intersections, uneven roads, curves, and full loads also warrant cautious speeds.
- Equipment Malfunction: Sometimes the truck driver is alert, paying attention to the road, driving carefully and still experiences an accident due to a fault in the equipment. Semi-trucks and other CMVs are made with intricate mechanical and electrical systems which help the vehicle function. Issues with steering components, brake systems, transmissions or other parts of the truck may lead to a collision.
What Should I Do If I Am Involved in an Accident with a Semi-Truck?
If the scene of the accident is safe, take photographs of the collision site. Aim to take as many photos as possible, from multiple angles. If there are witnesses around, try to take their statements as well as their contact information for later reference. Refrain from making posts about the incident on social media.
Should you require medical attention as a result of the accident, collect reports from the professionals treating you to corroborate your injuries or other harm. Keep a record of your medical bills as well, for insurance or liable parties to reimburse later. In the days following the collision, obtain a copy of the police report. All this information will help build your case.
It is also important to reach out to an attorney experienced with truck accidents, as well as insurance claims. Laws and insurance policies are complex and often difficult to understand. A lawyer will help you understand the laws applicable to your situation and strengthen your case for both court and the insurance companies.
The Belmar Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law, P.C. Advocate for Clients Injured in Truck Accidents
If you or a loved one was harmed in a truck collision, reach out to Ellis Law, P.C.‘s experienced truck accident lawyers. We will help you hold the liable parties responsible, and fight ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled to. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 732-298-6664 or complete our online form. Our office is in Freehold, New Jersey, from which we serve clients in East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County. We also represent Brooklyn and New York, New York clients.