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How to Avoid Being in a Texas Truck Accident

Because of their size and weight, a Texas truck accident is usually far more serious than the average car crash.  There were about 5,100 fatality collisions involving trucks in the United States in 2018, according to statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. That is because commercial truck crashes are much more dangerous than those involving smaller vehicles.  Here is a photo from a case we handled recently to give you an idea of the massive damage a jack-knifed 18-wheeler can cause on our North Texas roads.

Texas Truck Accident Causes

Trucks are much larger, heavier, slower, and more difficult to maneuver than cars, but many truck and vehicle drivers seem to forget this. These are some of the common causes of a Texas truck accident that we have seen over the last 40 years:  

Blind Spots

This is probably the biggest factor when it comes to truck accidents. Because of their length, trucks have much larger blind spots than smaller vehicles in these four areas:
  • directly in front of the tractor trailer,
  • directly behind it, and
  • on both sides next to its side mirrors, especially on the right.
Remember that if a smaller vehicle gets within 100 feet of the back of an 18-wheeler, it will usually be invisible to its driver. 

Speed and Stopping Distance

Many tractor-trailers have a gross weight vehicle rating exceeding 80,000 pounds. Traveling at typical interstate speed of 65 miles per hour, a three-axle truck-tractor with a two-axle semitrailer travels over 95 feet per second (or the distance of three first downs on a football field) and can take up a whopping 900 feet to come to a stop.

Driver Issues

Truckers have to cover long distances with their cargo, and often try to travel as quickly as possible for the sake of efficiency. This means 18-wheeler drivers often take to the road in a rushed and even sleep-deprived state, significantly increasing their risk of causing a collision. Substance use is also a problem. Alcohol and prescription medication often have a role to play in a Texas truck accident. Of course, this is not limited just to those behind the wheel of a truck. The CDC reports that alcohol was involved in 28% of all deaths that occurred on American roads in 2016.

Poor or Unsuitable Roads

Tractor-trailers perform best on wide, straight, well-maintained, and dry roads. But when they have to navigate routes with tight turns or roads with potholes or other types of damage, crashes become more likely. These kinds of roads are common in more remote areas. Wildlife Sometimes truck wrecks happen because an animal comes onto the road unexpectedly. This is a particularly pressing issue in rural areas, especially during deer season that starts this weekend. Drivers of large vehicles should be especially conscious of the possibility of animals getting in their way.

Avoiding Texas Truck Accident: Truckers

As a truck driver, there are a few steps you can take to keep yourself and other road users safe. These include the following:
  • Get the proper amount of rest. In Texas, commercial drivers can only legally be on duty for 15 consecutive hours, and can only drive for 12 of these. Drivers must also take 8 consecutive hours off after reaching one of these limits. However, if you feel tired despite having time left before breaching a limit, you should still rest.
  • Make your vehicle visible when you pull over by using flashers or cones, especially in darkness.
  • Make sure your vehicle is running properly by taking it for regular checks and having any issues fixed promptly. Many a Texas truck accident has been caused by avoidable mechanical faults, especially in all the one-truck, owner-operator businesses on the road.
  • Carry different kinds of weather-related equipment in your vehicle at all times. You never know how conditions will change, especially if you are traveling long distances.
Remember, your obligations to other road users are more serious when you drive a large vehicle. The consequences of a simple mistake can be severe.

Avoiding Truck Accidents: Other Drivers 

While truck drivers bear the responsibility for managing their larger and more dangerous vehicles, there are things other road users can do to help them. Small/moderate sized car drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians are most at risk of serious injury from truck collisions. Even if you drive a pickup truck or SUV, it’s a good idea to know how to protect yourself.

Watch Out For Blind Spots

Never cut off a tractor-trailer. Be conscious of the large blind spot trucks have when you’re driving behind or beside one. Be extremely cautious passing them, use your turn signal, flash your headlights, then speed up to get out the way. Stay well behind large commercial vehicles, especially when roads are wet or congested with stop-and-go traffic, as it will take longer to brake fully. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see the truck driver in their mirror, they should be able to see you. If you can’t see them, you should try to reposition yourself on the road.

Don’t Overtake a Truck Going Downhill

Trucks take longer to stop than other vehicles due to their weight. They take even longer than usual when going down a slope. Therefore, you should try to avoid passing out trucks and buses while traveling downhill.

Keep a sufficient amount of room ahead of the 18-wheeler

If he or she is tail-gating you, you should move over and let them pass. You don't want to run the risk of being rear-ended by an aggressive driver.

Be Responsible for Yourself

Don’t assume truck drivers will drive perfectly or obey every rule of the road. As they say, accidents happen, and truck accidents have a far greater impact on car users than trucker. In 2017, 72% of those killed in truck accidents were driving the smaller vehicles. With this in mind, be extra-cautious when sharing the road with a truck. Make sure you always have room to protect yourself in the event of an unexpected movement from a large vehicle. This applies doubly to cyclists. To be entirely safe, you should dismount if you encounter a truck on a challenging stretch of road. Even without touching you or your bike, a truck can cause you to lose control or fall if it gets too close at speed.

What to Do When Something Goes Wrong

Avoiding crashes must be a priority of every person on the road. Whether you’re a big rig operator, a driver of a passenger truck or car, and especially a motorcyclist or pedestrian, there are steps you can take to keep your risk as low as possible. Unfortunately, avoiding truck accidents is not always possible. If you have been involved in a truck crash, whether as a truck driver or the operator of another vehicle, you could be facing significant medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses if you don’t obtain a favorable settlement or jury verdict. For more on this topic: How much money can you receive from commercial insurance after crash? When seeking legal advice in the aftermath of a Fort Worth area truck accident, it is a good idea to hire a good Fort Worth personal injury lawyer.  At Berenson Injury Law, we’ve been helping people injured in a Texas truck accident since 1980. If you have been injured or lost a family member in any type of vehicle collision, contact us for a free consultation. Related post: What you should do after a tractor-trailer crash

Thousands of crashes are caused by commercial truck driver fatigue

One of the chief reasons that 18-wheelers crash into smaller cars and trucks is truck driver fatigue. The National Transportation Safety Board estimates that tired truckers cause up to 13% of these collisions and admits that this number is under reported. Commercial truck wrecks horribly take the lives of close to 5,000 people a year. This photo is from a case we resolved this year when the tractor-trailer driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel on Interstate 35 in Fort Worth. This tragically caused the death of a woman on a motorcycle and serious injuries to our client and other people. Texas sees far too many of these collisions. That is because we have the most miles of public roads (313,000), most licensed drivers (over 13 million), five of the top 13 most populated cities, and the busiest interstate highways. Fatigued drivers cause thousands of truck crashes each year including heart-breaking ones like these:
  • A woman's son and three of his friends were killed when a truck driver fell asleep and plowed into their vehicle; and
  • Two parents and their two young children were driving home when a trucker who was asleep at the wheel slammed into their vehicle, killing the family.
  • Tracy Morgan and his friends getting crashed into by a WalMart driver who had been driving for over 24 straight hours.
The problem of tired commercial truck drivers is a major problem. And it is getting worse, especially with the financial losses that many truck companies have suffered over the past few years. This has increased the pressure to move freight even faster across more crowded highways.

The increasing number of accidents involving large trucks and the severity of the injuries they cause is a serious problem for motorists. While the effects of accidents involving 18-wheelers like the one pictured can be devastating, smaller commercial vehicles also pose a common safety risk. Trucks driven by plumbers, grass cutters, cable installers, florists, and other businesses rely on a fleet of vehicles to deliver their products or services. Are they held to the same safety regulations as larger vehicles?

Trucking Safety Regulations

The Role of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Fortunately the answer is yes -- depending on several factors. The FMCSA is the federal government agency responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). The primary goal of the agency is to reduce crashes and the resulting injuries and fatalities caused by large trucks and buses but it also has jurisdiction over smaller vehicles. States also have laws related to the license and driving requirements for commercial vehicles. Any business using commercial motor vehicles must obtain authority from both state and federal trucking authorities. Trucking safety regulations are important to every driver on the road. We share the roadways with all types of commercial trucks every day. While the FMCSA determines the regulations for all types of CMVs, it is up to the employers and the drivers to enforce them. A personal injury lawyer often finds that businesses and employers have failed to abide by federal trucking safety rules and are also at fault.

Which Vehicles Are Covered?

The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and the number of passengers a vehicle determines if a driver must have a commercial drivers license. CDL licenses ensure that drivers have increased training to handle a variety of conditions. Laws pertaining to the application and licensing process differ somewhat among the states. One consistency is that any vehicle with a weight of more than 26,001 pounds requires CDL licensure. Businesses that operate CMVs that alone (or combined with a trailer) weigh more than 10,001 pounds are required to register the vehicles and abide by the FMCSA trucking safety regulations. Some states have increased this weight limit to include trucks anywhere from 12,000 to 26,000 pounds, which coincides with the CDL requirements. Although a vehicle doesn’t require a CDL driver, many companies require the drivers to follow the same trucking safety regulations imparted by FMCSA. The key is understanding the different classes of CDL and weights that apply to different types of vehicles: Class A – Single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or a combination of vehicles with the towed vehicle having a GVWR over 10,000 pounds. Class B – Single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or more, or is towing a vehicle with a GVWR of no more than 10,000 pounds, or a farm trailer with a GVWR of no more than 20,000 pounds. Class C – A single or combination vehicle not included in Classes A or B. Single vehicles with a GVWR less than 26,001 pounds or towing a farm trailer with a GVWR of no more than 20,000 pounds. A vehicle designed to transport 23 or fewer passengers including the driver. An autocycle. Some of the most important regulations that apply to CDL drivers are the prohibitions against using alcohol, drugs, texting, hand-held phones, and driving while fatigued. These are some of the leading causes of truck crashes. Both CDL and non-CDL must follow these regulations and others, including using their seat belts and use of extreme caution during hazardous weather. If you have been injured in an accident involving any commercial vehicle, contact Berenson Injury Law. If the driver and/or the employer were negligent, you may have the right to collect compensation.
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