Here in Tennessee, there is no shortage of commercial motor vehicles on the road. Tractor trailers are often driving alongside us, whether they are delivering product nearby or simply passing through. Truck drivers face many unique challenges compared to those who drive standard-sized vehicles and this, unfortunately, means human error is both more common and deadlier. Wide turns specifically are as dangerous as they are unavoidable, and while this may not be news, ensuring you truly understand why and how may help you avoid a tragedy in your future.
The role of height in a truck accident
The root of almost all difficulties pertaining to driving a truck is the size of it in comparison to other cars on the road. As trucks are so commonplace, it is easy to become desensitized towards the sheer mass and volume of a typical 18-wheeler, and this means one may make the mistake of treating said 18-wheeler like a sedan. This can be a life-threatening error.
For example, due to the height of a truck, there is a much higher center of gravity. This means it is far easier for a truck to overturn and roll over. Aside from the obvious danger of being in the direct path of such an accident, it is also important to consider the materials the truck may be transporting. Commercial vehicles often have hazardous – and sometimes explosive – materials on board that can cause damage to other cars and those within them, even if they avoid an actual collision. Flammable or noxious substances are always present regardless of what is being transported, which means even an empty truck overturning can become a fire.
Even without them, any cargo deposited on busy roads, especially in sudden fashion, can cause other accidents across several lanes and usually shut highways down entirely for a time. In just October, a truck overturned and caught on fire, spilling 84,000 pounds of steel across I-65 in Nashville. Luckily, even the driver of the truck escaped without injury, but all lanes except one were shut down for several hours due to the extensive clean-up required.
Another complication born of height is the number of blind spots trucks have. Any part of a truck where the sideview mirrors are not visible is a blind spot. A negligent truck driver may not check these blind spots properly when changing lanes or turning and this can catch other drivers off-guard. Smaller vehicles in the next lane on either side need to be vigilant and should work on exiting the truck’s blind spot as quickly as possible.
Due to the extreme, all-around mass of trucks, they are not able to maneuver as easily or tightly as other vehicles. You may notice a truck with a sticker warning other drivers not to pass them on the right. This is because a typical truck has a 55 foot turning radius that requires them to veer left before turning right, creating a multi-lane but tight maneuver that may trap and injure other vehicles. Without wide turns, the height and weight of a truck would easily send it off-road and overturned due to lack of space. With them, however, and thanks to the onboard materials, flammability, and mass of trucks, it can lead to catastrophe.
Dangerous human error
Truck accidents are no rare occurrence, and often this is due to human error from the driver. Controlling a vehicle as large as a truck, as previously explored, comes with a host of dangers and challenges typical car drivers simply do not need to take as seriously. This puts the onus on the driver to be hyper-vigilant of all regulations and laws and hyper-aware of everyone else they are sharing the road with. Unfortunately, negligent driving is an epidemic amongst truckers. Fatigue, intoxication, unsafe lane changes, and speeding are dangerous to every driver of any vehicle, but the size of trucks means the consequences of these behaviors is far more likely to be dire.
Speeding trucks, for example, are especially dangerous due to the extra time required to properly slow down or stop. It takes longer to brake as a truck, and with their limited maneuverability they may not be able to react quickly enough to avoid a collision or crash. They are also at higher risk of losing control and overturning the truck if a wide turn is taken too quickly due to simple momentum and physics.
Fatigued and intoxicated drivers have impaired judgement and motor skills, which can lead to them making errors such as unsafe lane changes (lack of blind spot checks) and speeding. The long hours required of truckers, especially if they skip their legally required breaks from the road, means fatigue is the most common cause of these deadly mistakes.
Although it may not be possible to entirely avoid the trucks who share the road with us, their negligent drivers can still be held accountable. Companies with commercial trucks may try to shirk responsibility and seek loopholes to certain regulations, but with a skilled Chattanooga truck accident attorney at your side they will not get away with it. If you or a loved one were involved in a truck accident, Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law are ready to assist you in Chattanooga and Cleveland, TN, North Georgia, and all surrounding areas. Call us today at 423-756-7923 or use our contact form for protection you can trust.