On average, large-truck traffic accidents kill more people each year than domestic commercial flight crashes have in the past 45 years.
This chilling statistic shows that an 18-wheeler accident can happen to anyone – and it’s more likely than you think.
If you experience this worst-case-scenario situation, there are some important things you need to know.
With the right knowledge, you can understand the causes of these accidents and take every precaution to avoid them.
However, accidents can happen in spite of your best efforts. If one does, you need to make sure you get the compensation you’re entitled to, and help keep the responsible company accountable for their actions.
We’ve compiled this complete guide to what you need to know about an 18-wheeler accident. Read on to learn about these types of accidents, and what to do if you’re in one.
Why Are These Accidents So Common?
Lax regulations on the trucking industry play a significant role in making these dangerous accidents all too common.
Many drivers are allowed to work far more hours than they can safely drive. This means companies may require them to make unrealistic delivery times, even when they are too tired to be on the road.
Required rest breaks between work days are often too short for truckers.
In addition to overworked drivers, there are many other reasons why these accidents are so frequent. Let’s take a look at some of them.
1. Minor Traffic Violations
Sometimes, drivers may break traffic laws. It can be out of negligence, laziness, or an attempt to make deliveries on time.
No matter what the reason is, though, these violations can be dangerous. Driving decisions that are minor in an ordinary car, such as going slightly over the speed limit, can become very dangerous in an 18-wheeler.
Things like rolling stops, failure to signal, and tailgating take on a whole new meaning when a large truck is involved. These trucks can’t slow down, stop, or react as quickly as normal cars can.
If someone is tailgating while driving an SUV, they still have a chance of hitting the brakes in time when the car in front of them slows down suddenly. However, in an 18-wheeler, fast braking isn’t possible.
Drivers need to treat these vehicles with extra care – seemingly minor violations can quickly become deadly.
2. Distracted Driving
Just as with traffic violations, truck drivers may either drive distracted intentionally or because they’re trying to meet the demands of their employer.
No matter what the reason is, though, the consequences can be fatal.
Maybe they’re looking at their cell phone because they just got a call from their boss. Or maybe the call is from a friend instead. Either way, looking at the phone takes the driver’s eyes off the road for precious seconds, and can lead to an 18-wheeler accident.
Modern technology makes distracted driving all the more common. Drivers may be tempted to look at directions on their phone or try to find delivery information while driving to save time.
These choices are never safe, but in an 18-wheeler, they can have much more serious consequences for other people on the road.
This dangerous situation happens when the front of the truck slows down faster than the trailer.
During jackknifing, the trailer slides forward, making the truck appear to fold in half. This means the driver no longer has control over the trailer.
Sometimes these situations are avoidable, but not always. Improper braking can be a cause, but so can dangerous road conditions and damaged truck equipment.
Even the best truck drivers may have their vehicle jackknife if they have to drive in unsafe weather conditions, or on bad roads. But because of the intense delivery times required by many employers, they may feel like they can’t avoid these situations.
4. Intoxicated Driving
Driving under the influence is dangerous while operating any kind of motorized vehicle. When a truck driver does it, it puts the other drivers and passengers on the road at an even higher risk.
Truck drivers do sometimes make the terrifying decision to drive drunk or on other drugs. Some of them may abuse drugs to help them stay away on long trips. However, even though they’re staying awake, these drugs don’t keep them in a sober state of mind for safe driving.
Although companies have to meet strict regulations to prevent impaired driving from happening, ultimately, they can’t control the drivers at every moment of the day.
If a truck driver chooses to drive under the influence, it is their responsibility to be held accountable for their actions.
5. Reckless Driving
One can hope that a truck driver will always operate their vehicle with caution. But reckless driving still happens, even with drivers who are completely sober.
Excessive speeding, sudden braking, and other reckless driving behaviors exceed minor traffic violations. This type of driving doesn’t take into account the safety of anyone else on the road, and can quickly cause an 18-wheeler accident.
6. Improper Turns
Turning in an 18-wheeler is no small feet. When those turns aren’t properly executed, an 18-wheeler accident is much more likely.
Truck drivers need to have a thorough understanding of the difference between a proper and improper turn. Turns in large trucks need to be made with enough warning for other drivers to clear the road.
There are also some situations where a turn shouldn’t be attempted at all. If a driver doesn’t know what those situations are, they can put themselves in a position to harm others.
Turns that are too sharp run the risk of rolling the trailer over. If it rolls on top of cars, pedestrians, or buildings, injuries and death may occur.
If a driver makes an illegal turn, they may end up in a collision with another vehicle that wasn’t expecting the truck to be there.
When a wide turn is made without consideration of the traffic in every lane, collisions can also happen.
And turning into an intersection without properly checking for traffic can also result in an 18-wheeler accident.
7. Improper Passing
Just as with turning, passing in a large truck can’t be approached the same way it would be in a regular vehicle.
Improper passing is one of the most dangerous situations that can cause an 18-wheeler accident. Passing is dangerous as it is, and the size of these trucks makes the consequences direr.
Even in an area where passing is permitted, it may not be a good idea for an 18-wheeler to pass. Truck drivers need to know how to make those judgment calls.
Of course, passing in illegal situations can be just as dangerous or even worse. Truck drivers should never pass in a no-passing zone, in a construction zone, in an intersection, or without turn signals.
Though it may be legal, they also shouldn’t pass on a road without enough visibility, without checking their blind spots, or in any other situation where passing may put them in the path of another vehicle.
8. Improper Lane Changes
Lane changes are dangerous for much the same reasons that passing is. Improper lane changes are another common cause of accidents, especially for large trucks.
Lane changes need to be prepared for and carefully signaled to other drivers. A lane change without a turn signal is highly dangerous, since other drivers won’t know the truck is coming into their lane.
Truck drivers also need to carefully check their blind spots for vehicles that may be in their path. They should never change lanes in a zone where it’s not permitted, or change into a lane where their truck isn’t allowed.
Some truck drivers may try to weave between traffic to save time. This falls under the category of reckless driving, because all those lane changes at a higher speed than the rest of traffic is a recipe for disaster.
And when traffic is thick, no matter what speed it’s traveling, frequent lane changes should be avoided. The more cars on the road, the more potential accidents there are.
3 Ways to Avoid 18-Wheeler Accidents
It’s important that all drivers on the road stay vigilant. You can’t control the way a truck driver operates their vehicle.
However, you can follow a few safety tips when driving near a large truck to help keep you and your passengers safe. Here are a few key tips to help you avoid an 18-wheeler accident.
1. Click It
Putting on your seatbelt isn’t just a way to avoid a ticket in many states. It can also save your life in an accident – especially an 18-wheeler accident.
Without a seatbelt, you might fatally collide with the dashboard, windshield, or windows – or even be thrown out of the car altogether.
This is a simple way to help keep yourself safe and requires almost no effort. Just make putting on your seatbelt a habit every time you get into the car.
2. Leave a Buffer
Even the safest truck drivers need other vehicles to leave them enough room to operate their vehicles.
It’s dangerous for a truck driver to tailgate, turn without regards to traffic, or otherwise put themselves too close to other vehicles. But it’s also dangerous for you to do these things to an 18-wheeler.
Keep in mind that trucks have significant blind spots. If you’re too close, the drive may not be able to see you despite their best efforts.
Whether you’re ahead or behind the truck, keep plenty of space, and avoid driving beside the truck more than you need to.
Accidents like mechanical failures, tire blowouts, and jackknifing can happen to the best of truck drivers. Keeping your distance ensures those accidents won’t affect you.
3. Pay Attention
Attentive driving is important for every driver on the road. If you’re driving distracted, you may suddenly find yourself in an 18-wheeler accident.
Don’t text or answer your phone while driving. If you absolutely must take a call on the road, have a hands-free setup in place while you drive.
Avoid looking for directions or otherwise reading information while you drive. Gather everything you need to know about your trip before you hit the road.
When driving near a truck, be extra attentive to what the truck is doing. If the driver is driving dangerously, or if something goes wrong, you’ll be more easily able to avoid it if you’ve been paying attention.
What to Do If You’re in an 18-Wheeler Accident
In spite of your best efforts, you can’t always avoid an 18-wheeler accident. If this happens, what should you do?
Many times, you’ll be entitled to compensation for the damages caused by the accident.
In order to be eligible, you’ll need to be able to prove that the other party caused the accident through recklessness or negligence – or that their behavior made the accident worse than it otherwise would have been.
The other party that’s held responsible for the 18-wheeler accident might be the truck driver or the trucking company. It could also be a passenger, an equipment manufacturer, or in rare cases, a bystander.
The more extensive the damages are, the bigger the settlement will be.
Of course, we all hope to walk away from an accident unscathed. But if you’re not, you deserve to be compensated for everything you went through.
In this situation, you need a truck accident lawyer who knows how to work with an 18-wheeler accident case.
An experienced lawyer will make sure you receive full compensation for everything. This helps keep dangerous truck drivers off the road, and holds irresponsible trucking companies and manufacturers responsible for their actions.
Not only does a settlement help you pay for the damages from the accident, but it can save the lives of others by making drivers and companies act more responsibly on the road.
Let a lawyer help you navigate the complications of the case, including working with the insurance company, figuring out who’s at fault, and finding out what you’re entitled to.
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