Young & McCarthy LLP

Westlake Trucking Accidents Blog

What you should do when a semitruck is turning to stay safe

It’s easy for anyone to tell that turning is one of the more difficult maneuvers to make while operating a big rig. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for those driving passenger a vehicle to get a little nervous while turning alongside a semi-truck.

If you fret at these turns, here are a few tips to help you avoid an accident.

Lane change cited as cause for highway crash

Drivers in Ohio have likely been warned about the dangers of accidents involving large trucks. Florida authorities say that a fatal collision on Interstate 75 near Gainesville was caused by a truck driver who moved out of the right lane. While doing so, the truck collided with a 2007 Honda, which sent both vehicles through a median and into southbound lanes of traffic.

The larger truck then collided with a Chevrolet van before hitting another commercial vehicle, which resulted in a truck fire. There were 12 people inside of the van, and authorities say that some of the occupants were ejected from it. The van also flipped over several times as a result of the collision. The incident resulted in the deaths of seven people including five children in the van and the drivers of both commercial trucks. Authorities aren't sure why the truck driver made the lane change, but alcohol was reportedly not a factor in the crash.

Truck accidents and how they differ from car crashes

There are several obvious and not-so-obvious differences between truck crashes and car accidents that Ohio residents should keep in mind. The severity of vehicle damage and injuries is the first. The weight of commercial trucks causes a greater impact, leaving most passenger vehicles undrivable. Occupants of the latter may be left with head trauma and spine injuries and may require rehabilitative care and short- or long-term disability leave.

With this comes higher medical costs. Another difference is that more lawsuits that arise from truck accidents are wrongful death lawsuits rather than personal injury claims. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that truck crashes result in 3,000 to 5,000 deaths every year. Wrongful death lawsuits sometimes end in million-dollar settlements, but victims normally require a more experienced lawyer to be successful.

Serious dump truck, ready mix delivery truck crashes on the rise

Ohio drivers may be concerned to learn that serious crashes involving dump trucks and ready-mix concrete delivery trucks are on the rise. Meanwhile, a spike in fleet and vehicle insurance premiums has failed to reverse the trend.

According to the latest data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, dump truck crashes serious enough to require the vehicle to be towed jumped by 9 percent in 2016 with 8,206 reported incidents. Dump truck crashes causing injuries also rose by 2.7 percent with 5,483 reported incidents. However, fatal crashes involving dump trucks dipped slightly from 369 in 2015 to 367 in 2016. Meanwhile, ready-mix concrete delivery crashes requiring towing spiked by 9.6 percent in 2016 with 838 reported incidents. Injury accidents involving concrete mixing trucks jumped by 3.8 percent. Finally, fatal accidents involving concrete mixing trucks increased from 33 in 2015 to 38 in 2016.

NHTSA and FMCSA study worrying rise in truck accidents

About 70 percent of the goods purchased in Ohio and around the country each year are transported by more than 15 million large commercial vehicles. This is a worrying statistic for road safety advocates because truck accidents have risen by 20 percent in just the last 10 years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration analyzed traffic accident data to understand better what was responsible for this worrying increase, and they discovered that most semi-tractor trailer accidents were caused by truck drivers.

The Large Truck Crash Causation Study was based on information gathered at the scenes of 120,000 tractor-trailer accidents over about three years. Almost 75,000 of these crashes involved at least one other vehicle, and the truck driver was determined to be at fault in about 68,000 of them.

Proposed bill aims to reduce deadly truck crashes

Many people in Ohio fear motor vehicle accidents involving trucks, and they have good reason. Truck crashes are far more likely to be fatal to the occupants of smaller passenger cars. Safety advocates are seeking to reduce the number of fatalities caused by these crashes by urging passage of legislation to tighten regulations for trucks and require additional safety gear to be installed. The Stop Underrides Act of 2017 focuses on the risk of underride crashes when cars or other small vehicles slide underneath a large commercial truck. These crashes are often fatal and can lead to severe head and neck injuries or even decapitations.

Every year, hundreds of people lose their lives in underride truck crashes. Underride guards are required for the rear ends of semitrailers, especially after 260 people were killed in rear underride crashes in 2011. However, many people say that the current guidelines fail to provide enough protection for others on the road.

Is there a way for big-rigs to avoid collisions?

By 2022, most if not all new cars sold in the United States will come equipped with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems. The same cannot be said of 18-wheelers.

That makes the big rigs extremely dangerous on the roads. One study found that more than 4,300 people were killed in collisions with big trucks in 2016 – equal to two 737 jet-crashes a month.

Common safety concerns among truck drivers

Drivers in Ohio frequently find themselves sharing the road with commercial trucks. It's important to realize that truckers face a unique set of challenges. Even after specialized training and on-the-job instruction, they are still at a high risk for accidents. The following are just some of the most common safety concerns among commercial truckers.

First are the adjustments that truckers must make to stopping distance and turning ratios. They need to slow down to a stop much earlier, avoid overcorrecting and make wide turns, which can be difficult on narrow city streets. Truckers must also drive defensively at all times, expecting other vehicles to engage in unsafe maneuvers.

Truck safety technology rapidly improving

Large trucks operating on Ohio roadways have seen significant safety improvements in recent years thanks to new technologies. According to Penske Logistics' vice president of safety logistics, the amount of new safety technology to arrive on the market in the last decade is overwhelming. Some of the developments are simple, like emergency braking and backup alarms, he said, and the use of video monitoring systems has led to higher safety scores and lower total incident numbers.

Video monitoring technology has been employed by both Penske Logistics and truck manufacturer Mack Trucks to better driving training and identify maintenance and safety issues. Penske Logistics makes use of cameras facing into the cab and out onto the road. The cameras, from SmartDrive, are event-triggered, meaning they record when risk events occur. The term risk event includes near-collisions, hard-braking incidents and other situations. The Penske vice president said video is a strong training tool for drivers because they can learn from the risk events of others as well as their own.

Motorists can improve safety by understanding trucks

When Ohio drivers hit the road, they share the pavement with all manner of other vehicles. They also potentially put themselves in harm's way through no fault of their own. Every other vehicle is driven by someone with a particular set of experiences and mental distractions that could create danger for other occupants of the roadway. This is especially true when contemplating sharing space with an 80,000-pound transport truck. Because of the sheer size of semi-trucks, they present dangers that are not inherent to passenger vehicles. For the same reasons, they require special training and licensing to drive.

Before cutting in front of a 40-ton tractor trailer, drivers should be aware of the truck's safe stopping distance. A fully loaded truck at highway speed operating on dry pavement can require the lengths of two football fields to stop. With wet roads or worn tires, the distance can be much further. Although truckers are trained to keep a safe stopping distance between themselves and other motorists, it is often impossible because smaller vehicles dart in front of them, eliminating the cushion of safety.

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