Some Simple Rules For Avoiding A Tractor-Trailer Accident
Simple Rules Will Keep You From Injury Or Death In A Tractor-Trailer Accident
As an experienced Nashville personal injury lawyer and having represented dozens of seriously injured and dead victims of tractor-trailer accident cases for several decades I pay particular attention to the interaction between motor vehicles when I travel on the highway.
This past weekend I took a car trip on two of the heaviest travelled Interstate highways in the United States. Driving from Nashville on I-40 and connecting to I-81 up into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia I had lot’s of time to observe the good and the bad of highway driving.
Tractor-trailer trucks and buses fall into the category of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and are an essential element in transporting goods and services as well as seeing our loved ones from place to place. Of special interest to me are the tractor-trailers and their roll in maintaining a strong economy. My motoring weekend made it very clear to me that we have a booming commercial economy and I don’t remember a time in my life when I saw, and interacted with, so many commercial trucks.
Absent consideration of the concept of an 80 thousand pound tractor-trailer moving along an interstate highway at 70 plus miles per hour, one might think of these vehicles simply as cars of varying sizes that handle in a similar way. This kind of thinking can prove dangerous and often deadly to you and other drivers. Large commercial vehicles are much more difficult to maneuver and have massive blind spots. Negotiating an Interstate highway with all sorts of vehicles requires a driver to stay alert, avoid distractions and constantly gauge the things going on around them.
Statistics show us that 72% of tractor-trailer accidents are caused by the drivers of cars sharing the highway with them. Think about that, 72%. Tractor-trailer drivers will tell you that the number one rule when sharing the Interstate with CMVs is give them plenty of room. Being close to a tractor-trailer on the highway seems like a fairly intuitive thing.
We have all seen them littering the highways. State departments of transportation spend tens of thousands of dollars each year to pick them up off of the road. Some call them “highway gators” but whatever they are called, blown-out tire carcasses teach an important lesson. Riding along side of or closely behind a tractor-trailer that has a blowout can be deadly.
Keep in mind that trailers are often loaded with 80,000 pounds of cargo and that weight puts tremendous stress on the tires. The profit margins on CMV hauling are tight and companies often try to get as much out of their equipment as they possible can. Parts of a blown tire can, and does cause serious vehicle damage and under certain circumstances can cause a car to swerve off of the highway and when that happens all bets are off as to where and in what condition the vehicle will come to a stop. It should also be noted that when a truck tire blows another dangerous condition follows; the truck will start to swerve and be unable to stay in its lane.
Wind conditions can affect tractor-trailers, often times causing them to swerve within and out of their lanes. There surface area, or free board, create conditions much like the sail on a boat which make the truck difficult for the driver to control.
A blind spot is a spot along side the truck where the driver can not see. A driver in the blind spot might easily get run off of the road when a CMV driver tries to change lanes. When you are passing a truck stay outside of the rear of the trailer until the vehicle in front of you clears the cab. Don’t hesitate, when the driver ahead of you clears the cab hurry on through. At any moment a trucker with a car in it’s blind spot might be forced to make a quick lane change or swerve to avoid road debris.
Safely Passing A Large Truck
Always endeavor to pass a big truck on the left side. The right side is basically a blind spot along the entire truck and trailer. Always stay as far to the left of your lane as you can when passing. As I mentioned earlier, don’t linger.
As soon as the entire lane along side the truck is clear make your move. Hit it and get it. When you pass the entire length of the truck give the driver plenty of room before you reenter the lane on front of him. A fully loaded truck can take three hundred feet or more to safely come to a stop. Give them plenty of room before and after you pass.
Keep in mind that most, if not all, commercial trucks have speed limiting devices that keep them from exceeding posted speed limits. Sometimes, I would witness a trucker attempt to pass another slower commercial truck and as he/she was about to pass there was a slight rise in a hill and no matter how hard the driver pushed it, the pass was impossible.
Instead of allowing the trucker to slow down and fall back into line behind the other truck, some drivers would tailgate the passing trucks and cause a logjam which further backed up traffic and lead to tailgating by impatient drivers. Remember to give the trucks room to maneuver and we will all arrive alive.
What I Observed
As I mentioned earlier I traveled on I-40 and I-81. In Tennessee my experience was that there was very little in the way of a police presence and the driver’s actions reflected that. The speed limit, 70 mph, seemed to only be a suggestion and along with speed I witnessed aggressive and dangerous driving.
Tractor-trailer traffic was heavy, some times I would pass five or six trucks running together in a single file so passing was quite an interesting exercise. For the most part I found the commercial truck drivers to be competent and careful amidst a swirling pack of cars.
There seemed to be two types of drivers, clearly defined by those who accepted that we were all in this together and those who assumed the role of a NASCAR driver, blocking a paring every other driver to get ahead, even if only for 20 feet or so. Those drivers would run nose to tail at 80 plus MPH nose to tail as they bunched up next to the trucks.
As much as I tried to avoid these drivers it was virtually impossible. I found a group of drivers and ran comfortably at the same speed as we exercised care as we passed the trucks and slower vehicles. Running like this allowed us to make good time in a safer highway milieu.
In Virginia there was a much more obvious police presence. Warning signs abounded, police radar locations and airplane enforcement until rainy weather made that impossible. The enforcement seemed to tame the savage beasts and kept the speed at manageable. Virginia presented another problem and that was the mountains, turns and lack of vision to road problems ahead. Anticipating this problem the Virginia DOT had lots of signs posted reminding drivers to adjust their speeds to the roadway conditions.
If You Are Involved In A Tractor-Trailer Accident
Rule One for people injured in an accident with a commercial tractor-trailer: DON’T WAIT TO CONTACT AN EXPERIENCED TRACTOR-TRAILER ACCIDENT LAYWER. The trucking companies will respond immediately to an accident and have an experienced insurance adjuster at the scene of the accident, sometimes while the investigating officer is still on the scene. This can give the company all sorts of advantage. They can have an influence on the police report, secure important evidence, coach negligent drivers and take statements from injured parties.
NEVER speak to an adjuster before you contact your attorney and only after being instructed to do so by your attorney. For the best outcome in any legal case involving a large commercial truck, it is important to consult an attorney who is thoroughly familiar with federal and state regulations, and who has the experience and resources to conduct an full and proper investigation of the circumstances surrounding the accident, including compliance with safety regulations, possible driver impairment, and vehicle maintenance.
The investigation will seek to discover whether the driver’s number of hours on the road driver exceeded those allowed by federal law and whether the driver has past DUI or drug offenses. Your attorney will need to move quickly to preserve evidence and reconstruct the accident to show that the driver and/or trucking company was at fault.
When you need an attorney to represent you or a family member for injuries from a Tennessee truck accident, Phillip Miller is one of Nashville’s most experienced personal injury lawyers. In his thirty-plus years of practice, Phillip has helped many victims of large commercial truck crashes recover economic and non-economic damages. He is a board-certified civil trial lawyer who is thoroughly familiar with state and federal regulations governing commercial trucks, and he knows the importance of launching an immediate investigation while evidence of liability is fresh.
Call Miller & Associates today to schedule a consultation with a top-rated injury attorney and protect your right to a recovery.