Commercial truck accidents take thousands of lives in the U.S. each year. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 4,657 fatal accidents involved large trucks in 2017. In 82% of these accidents, the fatalities were occupants of the passenger vehicles, not the large trucks. You may not be able to avoid driving near trucks in Georgia, but you may have the power to prevent a crash. Follow a few safety guidelines and best practices around 18-wheelers to reduce your risk of a collision.
Respect the No Zone
The No Zone refers to areas on all four sides of a commercial truck where the truck driver has limited or no visibility. The length of a typical 18-wheeler makes for significant blind spots for the driver. As a motor vehicle driver, staying out of the No Zone is important. If you have to pass through a blind spot, do so quickly and avoid hovering. The No Zone extends about 1 lane to the left of the truck, 20 feet to its front, 2 lanes to the right and 30 feet to its rear. As a general rule, look at the truck’s side mirrors to see if you can see the driver’s face. If you cannot, assume the driver does not see you either.
Keep Your Eyes on the Road
Distracted driving is a primary cause of all auto accidents, not just those involving trucks. It is always important to keep your attention on the road while you drive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 3,166 deaths because of distracted driving in 2017 alone. Driver distraction could increase the risk of sideswiping a truck, cutting it off or rear-ending a trailer. Cognitive, manual and visual distractions could impair your ability to make sound judgments while driving, delaying reaction times and adding to the risk of accidents. Put your phone away, avoid texting and driving, eating while on the wheel and focus 100% of your attention on the road.
Use Defensive Driving Techniques
Defensive driving means being aware of your surroundings and not depending on other drivers for your safety. Rather than assuming a truck driver is paying attention and will follow the rules, assume the opposite. Be vigilant about watching a large truck near you for signs of something amiss, such as drowsy or drunken driving. Prepare to speed up, hit the brakes or otherwise react to a dangerous roadway situation at a moment’s notice. Plan an escape route that gets you safely away from the truck should it start to swerve off the road or try to merge on top of you.
Increase Your Following Distance
Not having enough room to stop is a significant cause of rear-end collisions in Georgia. If you rear-end a tractor-trailer, you could suffer a catastrophic underride accident in which your vehicle gets wedged beneath the trailer. Underride accidents can cause serious and fatal head and brain injuries. Avoid crashing into the back of a truck by increasing your following distance. Leave about the length of two passenger vehicles, not just one, between the front of your car and the rear of a truck. Reduce your speed and never tailgate a large truck.
Accommodate Unique Truck-Related Risks
The No Zone is not the only unique crash risk associated with large commercial trucks. The size, shape and nature of a large truck lead to other risks you should accommodate as much as possible as a passenger vehicle driver. These include the inability to brake quickly, wide-angle turns, override accidents, jackknife accidents and lost cargo loads.
Do your best to avoid driving directly behind large trucks (especially open bed trucks) in case of improper cargo securement and lost loads. Never cut a truck off or slam on your brakes in front of a large truck. If you see a truck turning, keep a safe distance. Do not try to squeeze your vehicle between the turning truck and the curb. If you do end up in a truck accident, contact a truck accident attorney in Gwinnett County for counsel.