Anyone who has ever driven on the highways in and around Orange County has probably seen and shared the road with tractor-trailers. These massive trucks are prevalent on California’s highways, just as they are on highways all across the country.
Truck drivers crisscross the country picking up and delivering a wide range of goods and materials like food, construction supplies and even dangerous chemicals. Although most drivers in other vehicles are used to seeing these large trucks on the road, it doesn’t mean that they feel comfortable driving next to them.
Driving next to a large commercial truck can be unnerving for a few reasons. First, even though the truck driver must have special training and a commercial license to operate the vehicle, they can’t necessarily always exercise perfect control over it. For example, the trailer might shift within a driving lane or even breach the lane line and move partially into another lane. This can happen regardless of the driver’s efforts to avoid it. Seeing this happen can cause drivers in smaller vehicles feel the need to get out of the truck’s way in case it crosses the line and causes a collision.
Another scary thing about these trucks is their size and weight. Anyone in a smaller vehicle can intuitively understand that his or her car will likely not be able to withstand an impact with such a large vehicle. This means that people in the smaller vehicle usually suffer the worst injuries in an accident with a large truck.
The attorneys at Easton & Easton have seen the injuries and damages that a commercial truck accident can cause. Whether the accident resulted from some form of reckless driving, truck driver fatigue or any other number of factors, we understand how to pursue compensation for victims of trucking accidents.
Driving next to a large commercial vehicle can be scary because most people have seen or heard about horrific accidents involving these vehicles. Our webpage about commercial truck accidents may be useful for those who are interested in learning more about such accidents.
How can drivers in passenger vehicles avoid truck accidents?
Anyone in Orange County who has seen a truck accident while driving, or even just in the news, understands the horrific damage that can result. Semi-trucks have immense weight and can create enormous force when they collide with another vehicle. People who are in cars or even SUVs are lucky to escape with their lives if they are involved in an accident with a semi-truck. Because truck accidents can be so deadly, all drivers should know some basic ways to help avoid them.
One key to staying out of an accident with a truck is for drivers in the smaller vehicles to stay out of the truck driver’s blind spots. Because trucks are so large, the driver cannot see every part of the truck while driving. These areas, also known as “no-zones,” are directly behind the truck, and also on each side of the truck or trailer. If a car driver finds themselves in one of these “no-zones,” they should do whatever they can to safely get out of that area.
Similar to avoiding the semi-truck’s “no-zones,” drivers in other vehicles must be cognizant of a truck that is changing lanes or trying to merge onto a highway. If a truck is changing lanes or merging, drivers in nearby vehicles should speed up or slow down to help ensure the truck moves into the lane safely. Likewise, if a car is trying to merge onto a highway in front a truck, the car driver should be sure to merge with ample speed so that the truck driver does not have to slam on the brakes. Truck drivers cannot stop their vehicles on a dime and they cannot make tight turns.
If drivers in cars and other smaller vehicles would follow some of these common sense tips, they might be able to avoid being involved in a fatal commercial truck accident. On the other hand, truck drivers and their employers must also do everything that they can to operate these large vehicles as safely as possible. After all, even the most defensive of car drivers can still find themselves involved in an accident caused by a semi-truck driver’s negligent actions.
DOT statistics shows speed limiters reduce truck accidents
Accidents involving semi-trucks is a concern for motorists, regulators and lawmakers across the country. Fatal commercial truck accidents claim far too many lives on our nation’s highways, and the Orange County area is no exception.
In its never-ending attempt to curb serious and fatal motor vehicle accidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation proposes new ideas for regulations that can achieve that goal. One such idea that it is pursuing is to require all truck in the U.S. to be equipped with, and use, speed limiting devices.
According to a 2012 study that involved 150,000 trucks, the U.S. DOT found that speed limiters substantially reduced the crash rate for commercial trucks. For trucks that did not have a speed limiter, the annual crash rate was 16.4 crashes per 100 trucks. By contrast, the crash rate for those trucks that did have a speed limiter was 11 crashes per 100 trucks.
Not surprisingly, the debate about speed limiters in trucks has its share of opponents. They claim that widespread use of speed limiters would make highways less safe and also inefficient. The basis of that argument is that speed limiters could cause significant speed differentials between cars and trucks. Those who advocate for requiring speed limiters simply point to the DOT data in support of their contention that the limiters do in fact reduce truck accidents.
Regardless of how this debate ends, truckers and truck companies should always take all reasonable steps toward operating their trucks safely. Like any other vehicle, a speeding truck can cause dangerous conditions that can result in serious injuries or death. Although truck drivers can face tight timetables for moving cargo from place to place, speeding is not worth the risks.
Recognizing the hazards of trucks on the roads
All too often, we seem to take things for granted. The last thing on most people’s minds when we hop in a car and head out on the road is the chance that we could be in an accident. Fortunately, most accidents between cars are generally minor, often just a “fender bender” or something similar. But when an accident involves a truck, it is not uncommon for far more serious or catastrophic results.
Trucks are far larger and typically heavier than traditional cars on the road. When trucks are loaded with cargo, the weight can rise dramatically. The laws of physics tell us that the more mass a moving object has, the harder it is to slow down or change position. This means that truck drivers require far more distance to slow down, and are less agile than cars when it comes to swerving to avoid a potential hazard or accident.
Truck drivers are especially vulnerable to hazards on the road as well. With their larger size, trucks typically have much larger “blind spots” on the sides and directly behind their vehicle. In addition, with their height and length, they can be vulnerable to crosswinds which may cause a truck to veer onto another lane or even off the road. In addition, trucks are prone to jackknifing, especially when there is water or ice on the road.
Understanding the difficulties that truck drivers encounter and proceeding with caution while sharing the roads with trucks could help prevent an accident. However, no matter how safe a driver you are, accidents still happen. If you have been involved in a truck accident, you may want to speak with a firm familiar with personal injury to see if you could receive compensation for damages and injuries.
Semi-trucks need time to stop
It is important that drivers fully focus on the roadways on today’s roads but this is especially true for truck drivers. The braking distance required for a truck to stop is significantly longer than the braking distance for a passenger vehicle which is why truck driver inattentiveness is such a serious concern. Fully-loaded semi-trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds which can make them a danger on the roadways.
When traveling 55 miles per hour, the stopping distance for a semi-truck is the length of a football field. This must take into account reaction time and time for the braking system to engage. Because there is a lag period between when compression brakes are initiated and when they engage, it can take a fully-loaded semi-truck a tenth of a mile to come to a complete stop. Passenger vehicles take approximately half that amount of time to stop.
Truck accidents can result in serious injuries and fatalities, which is why reckless driving by truck drivers can be such a significant concern. When truck drivers are inattentive, distracted, fatigued or traveling too fast, they may cause accidents which can be catastrophic in nature. When a negligent or careless truck driver has caused a truck accident, victims may be able to pursue compensation for their damages through personal injury legal protections.
Personal injury legal options can help victims recover compensation for the physical, financial and emotional harm suffered in a truck accident. Truck accident victims do not have to suffer from the harm caused by a truck driver alone and should be familiar with the personal injury legal protections to help.
Federal law prohibits trucker cell phone use
In addition to the laws of California, federal regulations prohibit many truck drivers who travel through the Los Angeles area, specifically those who also travel to other states as part of their business, from using their cell phones while driving.
The ban on cell phones is very broad. In addition to being prohibited from texting, drivers also may not talk on a cell phone at all unless it is equipped with a hands-free device. Moreover, the device must allow drivers to make a call with one button, so even if a driver has a hands-free device, if he or she has to punch in a serious of buttons to make a call, that device is not permitted.
The safety reasons for enacting this federal regulation, which applies to those drivers and transportation companies which haul between California and other states, may seem pretty obvious. To give some visual imagery, though, a truck will go the distance of a football field in the amount of time it takes a driver to take his or her concentration off of the road long enough to make a phone call or send a text message. This is more than enough time for serious truck accidents to occur.
Since this is a federal regulation, the normal penalty for violations is either a fine or, in extreme cases, a ban on a trucking company’s authority to transport goods in interstate commerce. However, standing alone, the regulations do not mean the victims of a distracted trucker get compensation.
However, the good news is that if a victim can prove that a driver was violating federal rules prohibiting cell phone use at the time of an accident, he or she can use that information to make it easier to get compensation awarded to them.
Why it is especially important for truckers to be alert
A previous post on this blog talked about the dangers of distracted driving and how distracted drivers should be held accountable for any injuries and damage they cause as a result of rear-ending someone because they were not paying attention. This is especially true of drivers of large trucks.
After all, while a typical car weighs, at most, 4,000 or so pounds, a fully loaded semi-truck weights closes to 80,000 pounds. More weight means more momentum, and more momentum means that a semi-truck will inflict more damage in the event of an accident. What might have been a rear-end fender bender had it been between two cars can be a serious and even fatal accident when a truck is involved.
Moreover, the additional weight also means that it takes longer for a truck to stop. At highway speeds of 65 miles per hour, a truck can only stop after traveling over 450 feet. The 450 feet, which is the length of one and one-half football fields, begins after the truck makes that decision to hit the brakes in the first place.
What this means is that a truck driver in particular cannot afford to increase his or her stopping distance by not paying attention to the road. Needing over 450 feet for the brakes of a truck to take full effect means that even a split second of delayed reaction, even the time it takes to glance at a bug in the vehicle, could be the difference between an uneventful trip and a devastating truck accident.
A distracted truck driver is a hazard to both himself and to other motorists with whom he is sharing the road, particularly since it takes so much longer for trucks to stop than it does for ordinary cars. These drivers can and should be held accountable should they cause a serious accident in Orange County or elsewhere in California.
Truck jackknifes are preventable
As Orange County residents are probably aware already, the highways or Cosa Mesa and the greater Los Angeles area are full of large trucks carrying goods throughout California as well as from other parts of the country in to this state.
While this blog has discussed on previous occasions how important it is for truck drivers to be alert and watch out for other motorists, it is equally important for them to do what they need to do in order to maintain control over their truck.
When they do not do so, a truck can jackknife, meaning the trailer will sweep to and fro on the road, taking nearby vehicles with it. Of course, this can result in a fatal truck accident or, even if everyone survives, an accident where someone gets seriously hurt or even permanently disabled.
Truck jackknifing is preventable, as the main cause of it is a truck’s losing traction on the road and starting to skid. Just like those operating a car, drivers need to pay attention to the road so they can avoid unsafe emergency stops and have plenty of time to hit the brakes. They should be particularly careful about braking too hard or too fast when it is raining or snowing or when the road is otherwise slippery. They also must anticipate curves and avoid coming up on them while driving too fast.
On a related point, a light load which is not properly secured or distributed can also contribute to jackknifing, so truck drivers need to make sure that what they are carrying in their trailers has been correctly loaded.
Truck drivers and the trucking companies that employ them can do a lot to prevent their vehicles from jackknifing and causing other motorist to suffer severe injuries. When they do not do what they can to prevent these types of accidents, victims could be eligible to receive compensation from them to make up for their losses.
Would mediation ever be a good option after a truck accident?
Following a serious California truck accident, and as our blog has discussed on previous occasions, the goal is for the victim to get the compensation he or she needs to pay past and future bills related to the accident and to move on with their life. Moreover, a victim will often deserve at least some compensation for their pain and suffering and other non-economic injuries.
In some cases, a judge may order the victim to mediate with the other side, and the other side’s insurance company, in an effort to get the matter resolved. In this case, the victim will have to at least give mediation a good faith effort.
Although whether to volunteer for mediation is really a question to be discussed with one’s personal injury attorney, there are a few advantages to the process a person should keep in mind.
Mediation is basically a negotiation session or sessions that gets guide by an expert at bringing two different sides to the point of reaching an agreement. As such, mediation, like negotiating, allows a victim to get something rather than risk getting nothing at all, or much less than what they need, at a trial. In other words, mediation gives a victim some more predictability. It also is an efficient process that can mean less time and stress dealing with a lawsuit and more time focusing on one’s recovery.
On the flip side, victims need to remember that mediation is a give-and-take process, meaning that they likely will not leave the mediation fully satisfied. Moreover, it is important for the victim to understand how the process works and what can and cannot be accomplished. In this respect, it should be noted that the insurance company’s adjuster has likely been through mediation before.
Findlaw.com “Truck Accident Overview,” Accessed July 6, 2017
Itstillruns.com, “What Is the Stopping Distance of Tractor Trailers?” Edmund Gary, Accessed Sept. 11, 2017