According to the United States Department of Transportation, a fatality occurs in commercial truck accidents every 16 minutes nationwide, including Illinois. This is enough to scare any motorist who has to navigate the highways in the company of 18-wheelers, semis and tractor-trailers. While you are as responsible as any big rig operator to drive safely, the sheer size of commercial motor vehicles puts passenger car occupants at a higher risk than the occupants of a big rig.
When considering whom to blame, safety authorities say truck driver fatigue and distractions often feature in truck accidents. However, as a passenger car driver, you must understand the limitations and challenges faced by truck operators.
Big rig operators
Operators of commercial vehicles need skills that require specialized training. The following risks and precautions are present in the lives of truckers:
- Truck drivers must stay current on driving techniques by attending scheduled refresher training sessions.
- Distractions by mobile phones and other devices are as dangerous for truckers as passenger car drivers — except that the damage caused by distracted truck drivers can be more catastrophic than in accidents involving only cars.
- Fatigue can be deadly, and truckers and their employers must avoid unrealistic deadlines.
- Checking weather forecasts and road conditions in advance can help one avoid unanticipated dangerous situations.
- Truck operators must ensure the balance and security of cargo loads, and they must control speed and turns to prevent rollovers or dropped loads.
Passenger vehicle safety
The difference in size and weight between the two vehicle types is most noticeable when you find yourself sandwiched between two big rigs on the highway. Keeping the following in mind may keep you safe:
- Keep in mind that large trucks need more space to slow down and come to a halt.
- They also need more space to turn, so when you drive in the city, they may need to use your lane to attempt a turn safely.
- When you join the highway traffic, or when you pass a large truck, do not cut into the trucker’s lane too closely. Wait until you can see the entire front of the big rig in your rearview mirror before joining that lane.
- It is best to never make abrupt lane changes. Use the indicators well in advance to show your intentions to the truck driver.
- The most significant danger is driving in the no-zones or blind spots of large trucks. Both sides and directly in front or behind these vehicles are areas where the truck operator cannot see smaller vehicles.
- Remember that, if you cannot see the trucker in his side-view mirror, he or she can also not see you.
- Never attempt to pass a truck while the driver is negotiating a right turn.
- Finally, yet importantly, be patient. You know that large vehicles are slower, so do not make unsafe passes only to get to your destination a few minutes quicker.
If you are dealing with the consequences of a truck accident, you will likely have severe injuries to overcome, and along with mounting medical bills and lost wages, you might feel overwhelmed. Knowing that the Illinois justice system allows crash victims to seek damage recovery might be comforting. However, establishing negligence on the part of the truck driver could be complicated. For this reason, others in similar situations seek the support and guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney to advocate for them throughout ensuing legal proceedings.