Large Truck Accidents

Presented by Scott C. Murray, ESQ.

Many of us have probably had a scary experience or two with 18-wheelers on the highway.  In 2009, nearly 300,000 large trucks had accidents, accounting for 74,000 injuries and more than 3,000 deaths. There’s no dispute that accidents involving tractor trailers often result in catastrophic and sometimes fatal injuries.

So what are the major issues that we face driving side by side with these tractor trailers out on the roadway? Well -first – the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that driver fatigue is responsible for 30 to 40% of all large truck crashes. In a recent survey, almost 20% of truckers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel at least once in the prior three months. And this is in spite of Federal regulations that limit truck drivers’ on-duty hours.

Another issue is what is called an underride accident. This is when a car rides up underneath the trailer. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, up to half of all accidents between a truck and a car involve an underride situation which dramatically increases the chance of death or severe injury. A European study revealed that 57% of the fatalities and 67% of the serious injuries could be prevented with improved rear underride protection.

Other causes of accidents include mechanical failures because of sloppy maintenance, poor driver training, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and, of course, distracted driving.

Here are four tips on sharing the road and reducing your chances of getting into an accident with an 18 wheeler:

  • 1st – Do not ride in a trucker’s blind spot. If you can’t see the truck driver in his mirrors, he probably can’t see you.
  • 2nd – Leave plenty of space between you and a truck.  Tractor trailers are heavy and difficult to maneuver. They need more time than a passenger car to react to road conditions. A fully-loaded large commercial truck can weigh 80,000 pounds or more and they take as much as three times the distance to stop as the average passenger car. When following behind a truck leave yourself 20 to 25 car lengths. This gives the truck enough time to react if road conditions suddenly change.
  • Also – Allow a truck to merge or change lanes. If a trucker has his turn signal blinking, leave room for the truck to merge or change lanes. Indicate your willingness to allow the truck in by flashing your lights.
  • Finally – Be patient while trucks turn or back-up. It often takes time and concentration to back a trailer up without hitting anything and sometimes a truck driver needs to make several attempts to reverse in tight quarters or to make a turn.

Do your part to stay safe. Driving responsibly, defensively, and sharing the roads can help reduce the number of injuries and fatalities caused by crashes with large trucks.

If you or a loved one has been in an accident involving a tractor trailer and would like to learn more about your legal rights, please contact me at (561) 366-9099 or by email at