Understanding common truck safety issues can help prevent accidents

Drivers can lower their risk of truck crashes by knowing how the large blind spots, stopping distances and turning radii of trucks contribute to crashes.

Large truck accidents pose a terrifying and surprisingly common threat to any driver in Bensalem who regularly shares the road with these vehicles. In 2014, over 7,000 of these accidents occurred in Pennsylvania, according to the state Department of Safety. Sadly, large truck crashes typically contribute to a disproportionate number of passenger vehicle deaths and injuries.

Predicting when a truck accident will occur is impossible. However, several truck features and characteristics are known to make these vehicles more accident-prone, especially in specific situations. By understanding these risk factors, drivers may be able to reduce their risk of experiencing truck crashes.

Long stopping distance

Stopping distance depends largely on a vehicle's momentum, which is based on both weight and speed. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, and they may outweigh passenger vehicles by 30 times. As a result, trucks require significantly greater stopping distances. The following factors may worsen this issue:

  • Poor brake maintenance
  • Weather conditions that produce slippery roads
  • Excessively heavy loads

Passing a truck without adequate space can create a situation in which the truck doesn't have enough time to stop to avoid a rear-end collision. Drivers can reduce their risk of accident involvement by remembering that trucks need a sizable stopping distance.

Large blind spots

Trucks have bigger blind spots than passenger vehicles, due to their size and the driver's high vantage point. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, on the driver's side, the blind spot reaches from the middle of the cab to the back of the trailer. The passenger side blind spot extends through multiple lanes and to the back of the truck. Cars traveling in the 200 feet behind a truck or the 20 feet in front of one also may not be visible.

Passenger vehicle drivers are less likely to experience accidents if they avoid these blind spots. When possible, drivers should pass trucks on the driver's side, where visibility is better. Drivers also should leave extra space when following trucks.

Wide turning radius

When vehicles turn, the rear wheels follow a tighter path than the front wheels. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, this makes very wide turns necessary for larger vehicles. Accidents may occur when drivers try to pass turning trucks, especially if the driver has misjudged the direction of the turn. For instance, a truck may swing wide before a right turn, giving the appearance that it is turning left and leading drivers to pass on the passenger side.

Drivers may be able to avoid some of these accidents by paying close attention to turn signals and leaving trucks extra room in intersections. When in doubt about whether a truck is turning, drivers should always refrain from passing.

Negligence in truck accidents

Unfortunately, even vigilant drivers may not be able to avoid every truck accident. This is especially true when truck drivers don't act conscientiously. One large-scale Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study found that truck driver actions or vehicle issues caused over half of the surveyed accidents. Many of these accidents involved preventable factors, including excessive speed, driver fatigue or brake failure.

When truck drivers cause accidents after violating regulations or taking unnecessary risks, their victims may have legal recourse. In Pennsylvania, damages may be available to address medical expenses, financial losses and emotional suffering. However, damages may be reduced if a victim is deemed partly at fault in an accident. For help establishing fault and seeking the full amount of compensation available, accident victims should consider seeking the assistance of an attorney.