In 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reported that there were some 6,807 crashes that involved big trucks, with about 83% occurring on state highways. The same report points out that most accidents that occurred due to a problem with the truck itself were related to tires and wheels, brakes, powertrain failure, and unsecured trailers or overloads — none of which other drivers had any control over. That means that even the most careful driver can be involved in a dangerous accident with a big truck. Fortunately, there are some defensive driving techniques that you can use to lower the probability of experiencing such an accident.
Accidents With Big Trucks Are Serious
Big trucks (usually classified as such if they weigh 10,000 lbs or more) have been called many different names including eighteen wheelers, tractor-trailers, big rigs, Peterbilts, Mack trucks, and others. But no matter what you call them, you do not want to be in an accident with one of them.
If you drive, you will eventually find yourself sharing the road with large trucks — and if you are unfortunate, you might be involved in an accident with one. Accidents that involve big trucks tend to be more serious than those involving a pair of passenger cars or light trucks because of the sheer mass of a big truck. If the truck is travelling at a high speed, the momentum itself can easily destroy a smaller vehicle, severely injuring the occupants inside.
Now consider this: if you rear end a big truck, your car can easily make its way underneath the truck, and with disastrous consequences. This type of accident is called underride, and while there are underride guards on the back of trucks to prevent this type of accident, these guards do not always work unless the car makes a direct collision with the back of the truck. On the other hand, if a big truck rear ends you, it will probably end up on top of your car; this is called override.
Causes of Crashes
Some crashes are caused by malfunctions with the truck itself, as mentioned earlier. Issues with tires or wheels, faulty brakes, or powertrain failure on these large trucks can all lead to serious accidents and may be the result of lax maintenance or inherent product defects. If the truck’s cargo is not properly loaded (unsecured trailers, unbalanced loads, unsecured loads, or overloads), that can lead to major accidents as well.
However, not all big truck accidents are related to mechanical defects or cargo issues. As with any vehicle, driver error can be a major factor, including a lack of experience driving big rigs, distracted driving, driving under the influence, or failure to obey traffic laws. Weather conditions can also play a major role, including heavy rain, snow, ice, or fog.
Avoiding Accidents with Big Trucks
Here are some defensive driving guidelines to increase your safety around big trucks:
- Never take it for granted that they can see you, especially when they are making a turn
- A good rule of thumb is that if you cannot see the driver’s face, then the driver cannot see your vehicle
- During rainy or snowy weather, keep in mind that large trucks can kick up enough rain, mud, or snow to temporarily cover your windshield and obscure your vision, so leave enough space between yourself and the back of trucks to avoid this effect
- Do a quick Google search on “no zones for large trucks” and you will see where their most common blind spots are so you can be aware when you are in one
- Don’t pull in front of a truck and suddenly slow down or hit your brakes — at a certain distance, it is simply not possible for a truck to slow down quickly enough to avoid hitting you
- Give trucks plenty of room to turn — this is not the time to crowd them
- When passing a truck, make sure you can see them in your rearview mirror before you return to their lane
Following these guidelines can significantly reduce your chances of an accident with a large truck.
Vehicular accidents involving big trucks are extremely dangerous, often resulting in significant damage to the smaller vehicle and serious injury to anyone involved. There are quite a few factors at play in such an accident, such as the condition of the truck (is it well maintained, are the tires in good condition), how it is loaded (overloaded, not balanced), and the condition of the driver (drowsy, under the influence). However, it is safe to say that not all accidents involving big trucks are the truck driver’s fault. There are certain defensive driving measures you should follow when driving near one of these vehicles.
And finally, if you do find yourself involved in an accident with a big truck, the legal ramifications can be more complicated than a typical car accident. The insurance companies and the trucking company involved will aggressively fight your claims.
Donaghue & Labrum Can Help If You’ve Been in an Accident
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a big truck, contact Donaghue & Labrum right away. We specialize in car, motorcycle, truck, and bus accidents and will fight to get you the settlement that you deserve. Let us put our 30+ years of experience to work for you — we can be every bit as stubborn and aggressive as the insurance companies. Contact us for a free consultation today.