Sharing the highway with semitrucks can be a very uneasy feeling for drivers of passenger vehicles. A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, or 25 times that of a car, and when that load is combined with speed, it can create a deadly force.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) says crashes involving semitrucks rose by 10% in 2017 with 4,657 fatal truck-related accidents and 344,000 non-fatal injury crashes. Safety advocates fear a proposed weakening of trucking regulations will make our highways even more dangerous.
You can take steps to increase highway safety
While safety is the responsibility of all drivers on the roadways, the trucking industry says passenger car drivers can take the following steps when driving near big rigs:
- Defensive driving: Always be alert and do not allow yourself to become distracted. Remember, semis weigh a lot more and are slower to react to potential collisions.
- Maintain a safe distance: Keep a four-second gap when following behind a big rig and be prepared for sudden stops, tire blowouts and rollovers caused by high winds.
- Avoid blind spots: The right side of a semitruck is the most vulnerable area for a truck driver’s view as well as directly in front of or behind. Do not remain in these areas for long periods.
- Pass quickly: Your car is faster than an 18-wheeler, so accelerate to safely pass and drive closer to the shoulder of the road.
- Do not cut off a large truck: It takes a semi much longer to stop, up to 200 yards when traveling 65 mph, so be sure you can see the truck’s entire front end before merging.
- Use low beams: Make sure your headlights are dimmed when traveling near or passing a semi. Trucks have large mirrors, and the reflection of bright lights can cause temporary blindness for drivers.
- Use your turn signals: If you are turning or merging, use your turn signal at least three seconds before you change directions, so the truck driver has time to slow down or change lanes.
Seek legal advice if you are injured in a large truck crash
The FMCSA says 70% of the people killed in semitruck crashes are in passenger vehicles. On many occasions, crashes result from truck driver fatigue, inexperienced truck drivers, maintenance issues or other negligence. Consult with an experienced personal injury attorney here in California who can help you receive compensation if you suffer permanent or temporary injuries, expensive medical bills and lost wages.