Accidents are the downside of having freedom and mobility with our own cars. While most of us have had a minor fender-bender with another car and lived to tell the tale, truck accidents are a whole different story. Actual numbers of truck accidents are low compared to non-commercial vehicles, about 9%, but fatality rates for collisions with trucks are around 98%. In the majority of these cases, accidents happen in rural areas and on weekends, and are as often the fault of the car driver, as the truck driver. This is not to say that truck drivers do not make errors of judgment or work too many hours and drive while fatigued. Oftentimes, they do.
Should you be worried? In a report issued in June of this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that the rate of truck accidents in 2012 rose in Tennessee by 8% from 2011 statistics, for a total of 1,014 truck accidents. Factor in that 98% fatality rate, and those numbers translate to many lives lost.
What can you do to avoid these disastrous collisions?
First practice the basics of good driving — be alert and focus on the road, drive defensively, and when you are tired, don’t drive. Then take into consideration the limits of large vehicles. Here are some specific points:
1. Drive at speeds appropriate to laws as well as road conditions. Slow down in wet weather and/or low visibility. Put even more stopping distance between yourself and the truck ahead of you when roads are wet.
2. Signal when passing and turning. Alerting fellow drivers of your intent eliminates surprises and panicked reactions.
3. If you have car problems, pull over well out of traffic and use your hazard lights. In Tennessee these may only be used in an emergency situation, to alert other drivers and authorities.
4. Remember that a truck operates, moves and brakes differently from a car:
a. Stay 20-25 car lengths behind a truck to maintain a safe distance away from the truck. This is especially true when going uphill—if the truck driver slips back due to a gear downshift, you want to be far enough behind to avoid a collision.
b. Be cautious at turns. Large trucks have a wider turning radius than cars and you want to avoid being “pinched”.
c. The driver cannot always see you, especially in a small car, but also because the truck has blind spots that the driver cannot compensate for. Whereas you would check your mirrors, the rear of the truck is an invisible zone for the truck driver, as is the join area between the cab and the trailer. One insurance company warns drivers: “A good rule of thumb is: if you can't see the driver in the truck's side mirrors, the driver can't see you.”
As always, Stillman and Friedland Reminds you to drive safely!
Tennessee Auto/Truck Accident Attorney