How to Avoid Accidents with Commercial Trucks in FL
Every week, thousands of big rig trucks roll through Florida, delivering products and supplies to communities throughout the state. The trucking industry is vital for our economy, and we depend on them to keep us supplied with everything we need to maintain the quality of life we enjoy. All of that said, large commercial trucks also present a danger to others that they share the roads with.
A tractor-trailer that is fully loaded can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, which is 10 to 20 times heavier than an average passenger vehicle. So not surprisingly, when a semi-truck collides with another vehicle, those in the other vehicle tend to get the worst of it. Statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) bear this out.
In 2018, 4,136 people were killed in large truck crashes. 67% of those killed were occupants of passenger vehicles, while 17% were occupants of big rig trucks. Another 15% were motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Overall, the number of those who died in commercial trucking accidents in 2018 was 31% higher than just a decade earlier in 2009.
What Causes Commercial Truck Accidents?
Accidents with large tractor-trailers tend to be some of the most complicated cases, because there are often multiple contributing factors, and there are several parties that may share responsibility. Here are some of the most common reasons why semi-truck accidents occur:
- Speeding/Aggressive Driving: Truck drivers have tight schedules to keep, and in order to meet deadlines that are often unrealistic, they may exceed the speed limit and generally drive in an aggressive manner. This type of driving behavior increases the risk of a collision.
- Distracted Driving: The vast majority of motor vehicle accidents involve some type of driver distraction. For truckers, there is always the temptation to send and receive texts and do similar things on their smart phones to deal with the boredom of driving for hours on end. Texting while driving is also a big problem with other vehicle drivers, and it is quickly becoming one of the leading causes of vehicle crashes.
- Drunk Driving: To deal with the stress of the job, some commercial drivers turn to alcohol or prescription or illegal drugs. It is widely known that chemical impairment slows reaction times, alters a driver’s state of mind, and generally causes motorists to make bad driving decisions.
- Drowsy Driving: Drowsiness or fatigue is a contributing factor in hundreds (and some experts believe thousands) of fatal accidents each year. Truck drivers are particularly susceptible to driving while drowsy, because they are on the road for several hours, often during evenings and overnights when it is harder to stay awake.
- Mechanical or Product Failures: Semi-trucks log thousands of miles over the road each month. For this reason, it is absolutely essential that they are properly maintained. When this does not occur, mechanical breakdowns that lead to accidents become more likely. Another issue that is closely related to this is a dangerous or defective vehicle or vehicle part that malfunctions in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
- Improperly Loaded Trucks: Large commercial trucks have weight limits and specific loading procedures that must be followed. When these limits are exceeded and/or the truck is unevenly loaded, it increases the risk of the vehicle rolling over or getting tipped to its side under the wrong set of circumstances.
Tips for Avoiding Collisions with Commercial Trucks
With the heightened risk of serious injury that is associated with large truck accidents, it is very important that we are aware of this danger and take steps to avoid it:
- Allow Plenty of Space
Large commercial trucks require far more space than a regular vehicle in order to make turns and slow down for hazards on the road. Do not tailgate a big rig truck, and always give them enough room to do what they need to do. A good rule of thumb is to maintain a following distance of at least four seconds.
- Clearly Signal your Intentions
If you are planning to change lanes or make a turn, always be sure to provide clear signals so that a truck driver can anticipate your actions. In the case of large trucks, it is best to signal sooner than you normally would for other types of vehicles, so they have ample time to adjust.
- Stay Visible
Semi-trucks have more and larger blind spots than other types of vehicles. Avoid driving alongside an 18-wheeler for too long, because the last thing you want to do is get lost in their blind spot. Stay at least 30 feet behind the truck or 20 feet in front of the truck, and when you are passing, make sure you can see the driver in his/her side view mirror. Otherwise, he/she may not be able to see you.
- Be Cautious when Passing
Picking up on the last point, always be careful when you decide to pass a big rig truck. They cannot stop or maneuver as easily as other vehicles, so only pass them if you have plenty of space available to merge in front of them. Also, avoid passing while going uphill or downhill as the speed of the large truck may naturally increase or decrease.
- Avoid Distractions
As we talked about earlier, motorists are more tempted than ever to send and receive texts and do other activities on their smartphones while driving. This is never a good idea, and it is especially hazardous to drive while distracted when you are sharing the road with a large commercial truck.
Injured in a Large Trucking Accident in Florida? Contact Whibbs, Stone, & Barnett for Assistance
Even if you employ all of the best safety practices, you cannot control external factors that might cause you to get into an accident with a commercial truck. If this has happened to you or a family member and you suffered a serious injury, you need strong legal counsel by your side advocating aggressively for your rights and interests.
If the accident occurred in the Florida Panhandle or nearby Alabama communities, contact the experienced attorneys at Whibbs, Stone, & Barnett for help. Call our office today at 1-888-219-4561 or message us online to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.