Tips For Preventing And Avoiding Truck Accidents

Of all the accidents that commuters fear, a collision with a large truck is the most terrifying. That dread is justified! After all, trucks weigh up to 30 times more than the average car and can take almost twice as long to stop after braking.

This is why it's not surprising that passenger vehicle occupants are far more likely to die in truck vs. car accidents. In fact, from 2006 to 2016, 66 to 72 percent of truck crash deaths were passenger vehicle occupants.

Drivers of both passenger vehicles (cars, motorcycles and pickup trucks) and commercial vehicles (18-wheelers, tankers, car-carriers and others) should do more to make truck-car collisions less frequent. Here are a few tips.

Accident avoidance tactics when sharing roads with large trucks

Large commercial vehicles are a potential hazard given their mass and poor maneuverability. As the driver of a car or other passenger vehicle, reduce the chance of collision by following some basic measures:

  • If you can't see yourself in the truck's side mirrors, the trucker cannot see you. It's important to always keep your car far enough back so you see your reflection. That precaution boosts the chance that the truck driver is aware of your vehicle before it changes lanes or brakes.
  • Take trucks' slower response times seriously. Give trucks at least four seconds of space between your two vehicles, especially in wet road conditions. And don't pull out quickly from side streets or entrance ramps just ahead of trucks.
  • Follow all passing rules. Trucks are slow to turn, but attempting to pass a truck on the right as the truck is making a right turn is hazardous. When you do pass the truck lawfully (on the left in most circumstances), wait until you see the truck's cab in your rearview mirror before you pull back into the right lane. And watch for the truck's turn signal before passing on either side.
  • If you see something, say something. When you witness a truck that seems to be operated by a tired or careless driver, call 911 as soon as you can safely operate your phone. That may mean pulling off to the side before calling.
  • Be vigilant at all hours. Despite daylight's greater visibility, it's during these hours when most fatal crashes involving trucks occur. In fact, a higher percentage of fatal crashes involving large trucks occur during the day. Other types of vehicle accidents are deadlier in the evening, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Avoiding accidents while driving a truck

There are a few things highway and traffic experts believe truckers and their companies can do to make roads safer for themselves and others.

  • Insist on proper truck maintenance. All drivers should do a pretrip inspection before starting their runs. Confirm that everything -- engine, brakes, signals, truck bed contents and instrument panel -- are in good working order. In addition, the company should keep its trucking fleet in good repair and checked frequently.
  • Warn management of problems. It can be intimidating to notify your bosses if you spot unsafe policies or shoddy maintenance procedures. But it may be your life you are saving. In California, driving big rigs is the third deadliest job.
  • Stay alert on the road. Often, truckers push past state and federal regulations for how long they can be on the road or on duty. They may also take less time than they should between shifts. While it may be your boss who is pressuring you to deliver goods faster, a safe driver follows these regulations carefully. In addition, eat at regular intervals and keep what you eat on the healthy side for maximum alertness.
  • Follow the rules of the road. It's always dangerous to try to beat the system when driving. But for truck drivers and their massive loads, ignoring these safety measures can be far deadlier — for themselves and nearby vehicles. Don't ignore traffic lights or turn where it's prohibited. It's also important to slow at pedestrian crossings, as well as at school zones and construction zones.
  • Know your "no." Each truck has its own specific " no zone" — those areas in which the driver either can't see other vehicles and road structures or can't stop in time if they get in the way. Getting familiar with your truck's features and "no zone" will help you be more aware once you're in traffic.
  • Warn authorities of danger. Truck drivers can often spot more road hazards than drivers in lower vehicles. These dangers include erratic drivers, bad road conditions, traffic lights that have gone out and recent crashes. Letting the police or traffic safety agencies know of other hazards helps prevent other trucks from driving into unsafe conditions unknowingly.

In an accident with a truck?

Many survivors of truck collisions — and those who have lost loved ones in such accidents — often don't understand why the accident happened. Would you know if an unfair law or an unscrupulous trucking company contributed to your accident?

Changes in federal laws threaten to override safety-conscious state rules that limit how much time a truck driver can be on the road without stopping to eat or rest. That puts everyone more at risk for a serious truck accident. Some trucking company policies and practices put other motorists in danger. "Chameleon" trucking companies change their business names after receiving safety violation citations.

If you are injured in a truck accident, you don't have to face the aftermath alone. Contact an experienced truck accident attorney at the law firm of Girardi | Keese by calling 800-401-4530 or by sending us an email. With two offices in Los Angeles and San Bernardino, our lawyers assist personal injury victims throughout Southern California.