In 2017 alone, the State of Texas experienced over 3,700 motor vehicle traffic fatalities on Texas roads. Of the 3,700 fatalities, 1,118 of the deaths were caused by crashes involving trucks, truck-tractors, and semi-trailers. Crashes with 18-wheelers, trucks, and semis can happen for a variety of reasons. Usually, the driver of either parties can be the cause of the accident, be it the driver of the 18-wheeler or the driver of the other vehicle.
Regardless of who may liable, these accidents are preventable and certain defensive driving skills can prevent a collision with an 18-wheeler. In this article we will discuss several driving skills that you can use to help steer clear of a crash with an 18-wheeler.
1. Stay clear of an 18-Wheelers Blind Spot
Weighing as much as 80,000 pounds, semi-trucks require significantly more accelerating and braking distance than your typical truck or passenger vehicle. The semis also can be over 40 feet long, creating multiple and large blind spots for the driver. Because of these characteristics, it is important to be aware of a trucker’s blind spot.
“No Zones” of 18-wheeler
There are four primary blind spots that the Texas Department of Transportation refers to as the “No Zone”. These zones exist on all four sides of the truck and can even span into several lanes. A good rule of thumb to avoid the blind spot is to check if you can see the driver of the 18-wheeler. If you cannot see the driver through their side-view mirrors, they most likely cannot see you.
2. Avoid Tail-Gating the Semi Truck
If you follow a truck too closely, the trucker will not be able to see you and you cannot see what is in front of the 18-wheeler. Following too closely limits your awareness of what is on the road. If the 18-wheeler has to brake suddenly, it gives you less time to react resulting in less braking distance for your vehicle. This could result in a severe collision as the trailers trucks pull do not have impact-absorbing bumpers.
Leave 20-25 car lengths between you and the semi truck
While some trailers do have metal bars to reduce impact, they may not align properly with your vehicle’s bumpers which reduce the effectiveness or even amplify the damage caused to you and your vehicle. It is recommended to leave 20-25 car lengths between your vehicle and an 18-wheeler, as this will provide enough distance and time for you to see ahead, recognize the danger, and act to avoid that danger.
3. Pass an 18-Wheeler Safely
You should never cut off an 18-wheeler. This creates a danger as the sudden movement could cause the trucker to over-react and lose control of his semi, resulting in an accident with either you or those around you.
Approach to passing a semi truck
When passing an 18-Wheeler on a highway, use your turn signal, ensure you are not in his blind spot, then accelerate past the truck until you can see it in your rearview mirror. This will ensure that there is enough braking distance between you and the truck in case a situation arises where you have to brake suddenly. When accelerating past the truck avoid staying in his blind spot for a prolonged period of time. If possible, pass on the left side as the “No-Zone” is significantly smaller than the right.
If you are on a two-lane road/country road with vehicles going in each direction, you should not pass until you reach a designated passing zone. This will typically be marked with signage or a dashed yellow line. Once you are allowed to pass, you should lean over and get as much view of the left lane as possible while keeping your vehicle in the lane. Once you see that there are no on coming vehicles approaching, quickly accelerate past the 18-wheeler and return to your lane safely.
4. Avoid High-beaming
When traveling at night on interstate highways, it can be very difficult to see ahead of you with low-beams while driving through more rural areas. Naturally, we pull our turn signal stalks to turn on our high-beams to get that extra distance of vision. However you should be mindful of those around you on the road. Our eyes adjust to the darkness of the night which makes our eyes more sensitive to light. Because of this, all drivers on the road are susceptible to being blinded by the intense light that high-beams produce.
For 18-wheelers, they often sit higher than everyone else on the road. When you high-beam, your headlights will directly aim light into their side-view mirrors and shine the light directly into the trucker’s eyes. This blinds them and reduces their ability to see and react to dangers on the road, increasing the chances of an accident. Therefore, you should always be mindful of the vehicles in front of you and avoid blinding them with your high-beams. Look carefully for where your headlights stop emitting light. Once you find this zone, you should turn off your high-beams if a vehicle enters your zone of light to avoid blinding them.
5. Be mindful of 18-Wheelers Making Wide Turns
You often will see 18-wheelers with bumper stickers letting you know that their vehicle makes wide turns. If you approach an intersection with an 18-wheeler attempting to turn, you should avoid being in the trucker’s blind spot.
You should also avoid being too close to the semi. It is best to stay a couple of car lengths behind the semi and stay out of the sides of the trailer. If you stay close to the sides of a semi while it turns, it can swing out into your lane and strike your vehicle.
What Should You Do if You are Involved in an 18-Wheeler Accident?
While anyone can take all the defensive actions to avoid an accident, life happens and there will be factors out of your control that ultimately result in an accident. The time following an accident can be extremely difficult and stressful. Here are some tips that can aid you after an accident with an 18-wheeler and help your personal injury case.
- Seek medical attention. If you are injured, it is first and foremost to take care of your health and well-being. While you may not feel any pain or injuries immediately after the accident, signs of injury usually occur hours or a day after the accident. You should be seen by a doctor to evaluate whether you have sustained bodily injury.
- Immediately after the accident, take pictures of all the vehicles involved and of the scene. Do not move the vehicles unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. If it is safe, take pictures of the entire scene before moving.
- Call the police and obtain a police report.
- Take notes of what you remember from the accident.
- Obtain contact, drivers license, and insurance information from the negligent party.
- Ask witnesses to stay and explain what they saw to the police officer if possible. If not possible, ask for their contact information.
- Hold on to all records regarding the accident.
- Obtain copies of repair bills or property damage estimates.
- Obtain all hospital bills or medical bills related to the accident.
- Do not forfeit your right to file a lawsuit. Do not sign anything before consulting legal counsel.
- Do not accept any money from the other party.
Seek Legal Advice After Your 18-Wheeler Accident
The next step should be contacting an experienced personal injury attorney to determine whether you have a case. Our personal injury attorneys will hear your case and help you determine whether the other party’s negligence caused your injuries.
The aftermath of an accident with an 18-wheeler and damages sustained can be very serious for you and your family. An accident of this magnitude can cause injuries which create a life-changing event. You do not have to face this alone. Most people feel overwhelmed and are unsure of the next steps they should take. The experienced attorneys at Pusch & Nguyen can guide you to get you the help and compensation that you deserve.