As our country grows, the number of semi-trucks and other large vehicles on the road grows right along with it. American Trucking Associations estimates that 36 million trucks used for commercial purposes were registered in 2017. They accounted for 297.6 billion miles traveled on our roadways.
Truck driving is hard work, not least because of the immense responsibility required of drivers who must remain careful, focused, and alert while driving long hours in an often stressful environment. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the ways that commercial truck drivers can help prevent accidents through safe habits.
The Importance of Safely Driving Tractor-Trailer Trucks
Because a semi-truck carrying cargo can weigh 20 or 30 times as much as a passenger vehicle, crashes with 18-wheelers can have devastating consequences for the drivers and passengers in automobiles. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), large truck crashes resulted in 4,136 deaths in 2018. The deceased fell, in large part, into the following categories:
- 16 percent – large truck occupants
- 15 percent – pedestrians, motorcyclists, or bicyclists
- 67 percent – passenger vehicle occupants
However, in two-vehicle accidents involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck, 96 percent of the people who died were occupants of the passenger vehicle. Many thousands of additional people suffered personal injuries requiring medical treatment. These statistics demonstrate that, while semi-truck drivers can certainly suffer injury and death, the brunt of the harm is borne by the occupants of vehicles smaller than commercial trucks.
Actions Semi-Truck Drivers Can Take to Help Prevent Accidents
There are many things that truck drivers can do to help prevent accidents. We discuss seven below.
- Stay alert and maintain the proper lane. Truck drivers make a living by driving an incredible number of miles. Most experienced drivers of any type of vehicle know that boredom can set in on long drives. When it does, it’s easier to lose concentration, even if it’s only for a second. According to a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Large Truck Crash Causation Study, 32 percent of the truck crashes studied involved a truck running out of the travel lane – either off the road or into another lane. This is clearly a recipe for disaster.
- Travel within the posted speed limit and slow down when conditions require it. We know everyone is in a hurry to get things done, but speed truly does kill. Speed is a factor in many trucking accidents.
- Make sure that cargo is loaded properly. When a truck’s cargo is not loaded into the trailer properly, unexpected shifts can cause a driver to lose control. Of course, the responsibility for proper loading may fall on workers other than the driver, but – as with the other safety precautions on this list – this responsibility should be taken seriously by the trucking company and any other stakeholders.
- Avoid distractions while driving. Distracted driving has been a hot topic for a number of years now. Research and studies demonstrate that distracted drivers are far more likely to be involved in crashes. It’s dangerous to use cell phones, eat, or engage in any other distracting activity.
- Stay a safe distance behind other vehicles. When vehicles brake suddenly, the trailing vehicles must act quickly to avoid a collision. Plus, trucks need more time and space to stop. The FMCSA Large Truck Crash Causation Study mentioned above found that 22 percent of large truck crashes involved rear-end collisions. It’s essential that truckers leave plenty of room when following other vehicles.
- Keep a close eye on the weather and obtain proper training. Bad weather can cause real danger for big trucks. Snow and ice are especially problematic. Truckers need to adjust speed and driving to account for bad weather. Truckers also need to make sure they are trained in best practices for driving in poor weather conditions.
- Observe all rules of the road. Traffic laws and regulations exist to make us all safer. Needless to say, truckers and all other drivers need to obey them.
Call with Questions
If you have been involved in a collision with a semi-truck and have questions, give us a call and we will answer them. Our Oregon personal injury lawyers have experience with semi-truck crashes and can help you understand your rights. We believe that the only way to keep all of Oregon’s roadways safer is to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions.