Large Truck Accidents and Why They Happen

Large Truck Accidents and Why They HappenWe see them everywhere on the road – large trucks, commonly referred to as “semis,” “tractor trailers,” and “18-wheelers.” These trucks have a gross vehicle weight of more than 10,000 pounds (two to three times heavier than a normal car) and are often operated by drivers who have been on the road for days with minimal rest. A majority of states require that commercial trucks remain out of the left lane while driving, except when passing, due to the increase in accidents that result in severe and fatal injury, when they continuously travel in the left lane.

Every year, approximately 500,000 accidents include semi-trucks across the United States and the number grows annually. There was a 31% increase in the number of fatalities resulting from these accidents in 2019 compared to 2009. Ninety-seven percent of these deaths were occupants of the vehicle struck by the truck.

Why do tractor trailers crash?

Semi-trucks, like “normal” vehicles, are subject to human error and hazardous conditions. Oftentimes, drivers of large trucks are on the road, working with minimal breaks for days to weeks at a time. While on these long hauls a majority of commercial drivers wear headsets so that they can communicate with their dispatcher and other drivers.

Drivers can get distracted by these headsets, their cell phones, or by something as small as looking down to unscrew the cap of a water bottle. While an accident may not occur every time they glance away from the road, the more they are distracted, the higher the chance they will fail to stop until it is too late to avoid a collision with you or your loved ones.

The average braking distance necessary for a commercial truck to make a full, complete, and safe stop is approximately 310 feet. Like passenger vehicles, large trucks are affected by the various conditions on the road. In dark and wet conditions, the drivers of these big trucks need to account for additional distance between them and any vehicle in front of them to ensure a safe stop. However, if a driver is distracted, even for a second, the greater the likelihood that tragedy will strike.

What is jackknifing?

Jackknifing is a term commonly used to describe an incident when the front, or cab, of a tractor trailer slows down but the momentum of the rear, or load, is too great and it swings outwards from behind the front. The rear can form an “L” or “V” shape in relation to the cab, instead of the proper “I” shape. These dangerous movements are commonly caused by a driver slamming on their brakes or hazardous conditions such as black ice.

When the rear of the truck swings to form the “L” or “V” shape, it can encroach into lanes of traffic beside the tractor trailer. Nearby drivers are often unaware that the cab of the truck is experiencing difficulty, only to be surprised and struck by the rear as it swings up the road.

Stay safe by knowing about big truck blind spots

While driver error and road conditions factor into the likelihood and severity of crashes involving tractor trailers, many commercial truck accidents are the result of blind spots. This means that even the most cautious, experienced trucker can lose control of their multi-ton vehicle and strike your car.

Notably, there are four main blind spots on most large trucks:

  • Behind the truck. Almost every driver has been behind a big truck and observed a sticker stating that if you were unable to see the truck’s side view mirrors, the driver is unable to see you. This is due to a blind spot that spans approximately 30 feet directly behind the truck.
  • In front of the truck. Surprisingly, the largest blind spot of a tractor trailer is directly in front of the cab. Most drivers believe this is the safest position in relation to a large truck on the road; however, this blind spot is approximately 20 feet long. Let’s not forget that these trucks need roughly 310 feet to adequately stop. Imagine the driver in front of you slamming their brakes and being able to stop just in the nick of time, only for the tractor-trailer behind you to be unable to stop and slam into you at highway speeds.
  • Directly to the left of the truck. Another blind spot directly behind the truck driver extends from the side view mirror and encompasses an entire lane in width and approximately 75% of the length of the truck’s body. If your vehicle is in this position beside the semi, truck drivers will not be able to see you if they attempt to merge into your lane.
  • Directly to the right of the truck. Unlike the blind spot located on the left side of the truck, this blind spot encompasses two lanes in width and extends past the rear of the truck’s body in length, making the right side of a tractor trailer the most dangerous place to travel.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created this video to demonstrate the dangers of blind spots.

What to do if you’ve been the victim of a Tulsa truck accident

Like any motor vehicle accident, the aftermath of a collision with a large truck is a hectic and stressful time. However, due to the size and weight of a commercial truck, the damage is often much more severe. Victims of an accident involving a tractor-trailer are more likely to experience disabling and life-altering injuries than those involved in passenger vehicle collisions.

Since a majority of large trucks are involved in some form of commercial transportation, our legal team can help you determine the right parties to file against, whether it be the driver, the company responsible for the truck or the load, their respective insurance companies, or others. It is crucial that the proper parties are identified immediately as you may not be able to file against them later.  The complexities of the transportation industry make it crucial to hire attorneys well-versed in trucking litigation to ensure no culpable party is overlooked. Contact us today and our team of trained professionals will ensure all liable parties are identified and you are justly compensated.

Contact Biby Law Firm today

Were you injured in a Tulsa truck accident? Let the experienced and compassionate Tulsa truck accident attorneys at Biby Law Firm fight for your right to compensation. Call our office at 918-574-8458, or submit our contact form to schedule a free consultation.