Tractor trailer-involved accidents are of increasing concern to Illinois motorists, as evidenced by recent crash data as well as proposed new legislation calling for stiffer penalties for trucker-involved accidents.
The Illinois Department of Transportation's Division of Traffic Safety reports that trucker-involved accidents accounted for 3.6 percent of all crashes in the state in 2012. Additionally, 2.7 percent of all injury crashes were attributed to truck-involved accidents, and 9.1 percent of all fatal crashes in the state involved tractor-trailers. These numbers are concerning for Illinois motorists, a McHenry County personal injury attorney and state lawmakers, as evidenced by the recent calls for stricter penalties.
According to the Quad-City Times, the Illinois General Assembly is considering legislation that would harshen punishments against truck drivers responsible for the serious injuries or deaths of toll workers, emergency responders and others. If passed, the new legislation would make it a Class 2 felony for commercial truckers to strike and kill someone. Those convicted of the crime would face three to seven years in prison and fines as high as $25,000.
While whether the new legislation passes is yet to be seen, Illinois residents are becoming increasingly aware of the inherent dangers of sharing the road with commercial trucks. Here's a look at how state residents can exercise caution while driving near tractor trailers to minimize their chances of becoming a statistic.
- Be Aware of the Blind Spot.
Commercial truck drivers, like all motorists, have blind spots that make it difficult to see certain areas around the car while at the controls. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, these "no zones," as they are commonly referred, include the danger areas around trucks where accidents most frequently occur. AAA asserts that these "no zones" extend between 10 and 20 feet in front of the truck cabin and about 200 feet behind the truck itself. Additional zones exist on either side of the truck, however the exact boundaries on either side are undefined. Due to the lack of defined "no zone" areas on a truck's left or right sides, motorists are instructed simply to avoid these danger zones to the fullest extent possible.
- Leave Ample Room Between Cars and Commercial Trucks, Especially on Hills.
Many trucker-involved crashes are the result of motorists following too closely behind commercial trucks. AAA advises that motorists should remain at least four seconds behind commercial trucks at all times to ensure the car stays outside of the trucker's blind spot. Leaving adequate space between cars and commercial trucks also applies when the truck driver indicates their intent to make a right turn. Due to the sheer size of many trucks, it can prove difficult to properly determine whether a truck is about to turn right or proceed straight through an intersection. Rather than attempt to go around the truck on its right or left sides, wait until the truck makes its move to minimize chances of an accident.
- Recognize That Trucks Create Wind Gusts.
AAA reports that large wind gusts created by large commercial vehicles are common factors in many tractor trailer-involved accidents. Keeping both hands on the steering wheel while passing or getting passed by a tractor trailer helps motorists maintain control of their cars despite these heavy gusts. A McHenry County personal injury attorney also recommends traveling at a slower speed when passed or passing a tractor trailer as well. Doing so makes it easier for the driver to maintain control of the vehicle should the car be hit or affected by a sudden gust of wind.
- Give Trucks the Time They Need to Successfully Change Lanes.
Another way for drivers to minimize the risk of a tractor trailer-involved accident is to be sure to give trucks ample time to safely change lanes on the highway. The average truck traveling at highway speeds requires eight seconds of time, or the equivalent of about 700 feet, to safely and effectively change lanes. To put it in perspective, this is the same distance as the length of two-and-a-half football fields. Commercial truckers are professionally trained to make safe lane changes and indicate their intent to turn using turn signals. However, it is equally important that motorists maintain high levels of awareness and alertness when sharing the road with tractor-trailer trucks.
- Let Large Commercial Trucks Pass Safely.
While it can be tempting to try and get in front of a truck to improve visibility or maintain speed, doing so is highly dangerous. The behavior is also a frequent factor in truck-involved accidents. Rather than attempt to "race" a truck or speed up when one attempts to pass, keep right, slow down and let the truck driver go by. This not only ensures the truck driver is able to safely pass, but it also helps get other motorists on the roadway out of the truck's blind spot more quickly.
These five tips take into account many of the common causes of commercial truck-involved accidents.
A McHenry County personal injury attorney advises increasing overall alertness and minimizing aggressive driving behaviors to minimize chances of a trucker-involved accident.
When further action is needed
While utilizing these safety tips while traveling near commercial trucks is a great way to minimize one's risk of becoming a victim, not all trucker-involved auto accidents are avoidable. Those who have suffered a serious injury or lost a loved one in a commercial truck-involved accident are advised to consult with an attorney.