Accidents involving large trucks are frequently far more severe than ordinary passenger vehicle accidents and have a significantly higher fatality rate overall. Why? Large trucks often weigh more than 80,000 pounds. That much momentum and force is enough to crush a standard car or truck with ease.
MOST COMMON TYPES OF TRUCK ACCIDENTS
According to the 2017 Large Truck Crash Report from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Association, frontal collision is the most common form of a fatal truck accident, where both the truck and the other vehicle impact on the front. The second most common is where the truck is rear-ended, often by the front of the other vehicle.
The NHTSA also compiled a second report that looked at non-fatal crashes. Rear-end collisions are the most common accident type for injury-only incidents, with sideswipes being the second most common.
Sideswipes often happen when the other vehicle drives in the 18-wheeler's blind spot, and the truck driver decides to switch lanes. The other vehicle then has to choose between driving off the road or getting sideswiped and losing control of their car.
In most truck accidents, both vehicles are heading straight when the accident happens. Accidents while turning are relatively rare.
WHERE ARE THE BLIND SPOTS ON AN 18-WHEELER?
A common misconception is that most truckers drive like they own the road. The truth is that most truck drivers try to be careful while driving, but several factors make their job harder. One of these factors is that 18-wheeler blind spots can be quite large—they can completely obscure a small car, pedestrian, or cyclist.
Due to their large size and long bodies, 18-wheelers have more significant blind spots than any other vehicle type. There are four main blind spots, including:
- Directly behind the truck
- Directly in front of the truck
- At the side of the truck, especially close to the side mirrors
While special mirrors can alleviate some of these blind spots, they can't eliminate them entirely. Truck drivers will often check their blind spots, but fast motor vehicles and motorbikes can quickly disappear into one of these blind spots.
Likewise, when a tired or distracted truck driver decides to switch lanes and forgets to check their blind spot, there's a high risk that they will sideswipe another vehicle without intending to do so.
STAYING OUT OF TRUCK BLIND SPOTS
The most effective way that you, as a passenger car driver or cyclist, can prevent a sideswipe accident with a truck is to stay out of their blind spot. Since there are four main blind spots on an 18-wheeler, you'll need to apply several strategies to stay safe.
- Be cautious while overtaking: While a truck has blind spots on both sides, the biggest one is on the right-hand side. Wherever possible, overtake large trucks on the left. Also, hang back and indicate your intentions long enough that the truck driver can notice and plan. By signaling ahead of time, the driver will know you're moving through their blind spot.
- Keep a safe following distance: Rear-end collisions are one of the most common truck accident types. Trucks have a blind spot directly behind them. If you're directly behind the truck, chances are the driver won't see you, and you'll have less time to react to sudden stops—sudden stops that could result in you rear-ending the 18-wheeler if you're too close. Tailgating a truck will interfere with your range of vision, which can increase your chance of an accident.
- Keep a safe distance in front of trucks: Trucks also have a blind spot directly in front of them. This blind spot is hazardous for pedestrians and motorcyclists, that can disappear entirely when close to the vehicle. If a truck is tailgating you, avoid the temptation to slow down or engage with the driver in any way. Trucks have a longer stopping distance, so if you have to stop suddenly, you'll have a truck rear-ending you. Instead, let the truck pass by changing lanes.
- Don't cut off a large truck: If you've overtaken an 18-wheeler, make sure to only return to your lane when you can see both the headlights in your rear-view mirror. Cutting off a truck poses the same dangers as getting tailgated. If the driver's very inattentive, they may not notice you driving up in front of them, and you may end up in their front blind spot, which is a dangerous place to be.
BLIND SPOTS AND LIABILITY
18-wheeler blind spots can have a significant impact on truck accident lawsuits. While truck drivers are obligated to check their blind spots before changing lanes, reckless drivers and motorcyclists can make the situation worse.
If you pull up too fast on the side of the truck, the driver may fail to notice you after they've committed to their lane change. In such an event, you may be more at fault for the accident than the truck driver.
In general, truck accident cases are more complex than accidents involving passenger vehicles. Not only are the injuries sustained in truck accidents often more severe, but there are more parties involved, and arguing your case can be challenging.
Trucking companies and insurers don't want to pay out massive fees. They will do everything they can to reduce—or even eliminate—your settlement, from blaming you to trying to force or trick you into accepting a smaller settlement amount.
While you can often walk away from a car accident and resolve it on your own, the same isn't true for truck accidents. If you have been injured in a Hartford, Connecticut truck accident I encourage you to contact me, James F. Aspell to discuss your legal rights. To learn how the injury team at The Law offices of James F. Aspell. P.C.