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Security | 10.09.2013 - 22:04

Truck Accidents (and How You Can Prevent Them)

Truck accidents are a huge priority in legislation on trucking, but the truth is that most accidents are due to errors made with other vehicle drivers. In this piece, Hank provides advice on minimizing truck accidents.
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Picture from KatieW on Flickr @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/katiew/62631059/

Given recent public focus on truck accidents, legislators have recently curbed the number of hours truckers can operate weekly in new Hours-of-Service regulations. These are intended to reduce fatigue-related trucking accidents, which seems like a good goal on the surface. But there is plenty of back-lash among those in the trucker community for various reasons.

For one, these laws limit the productivity of truckers and negatively impact the nation’s trucker shortage. Some point out that truck accidents have been on the decline for years now without the need of these laws. But more fundamentally, these laws ignore the fact that four out of five trucker accidents are usually due to passenger vehicles, not truckers.

Unfortunately, a lack of awareness on navigating around trucks in accounting for blind spots and maneuverability limitations has produced more accidents than mere trucker fatigue. Given these alarming stats, it may be time to sit and consider some of the ways we can safely navigate around truckers rather than contributing to these statistics.  

·         Realize that truckers go through rigorous training programs before they get behind the wheel. Many people behave unpredictably around trucks due to being intimidated by their size, but these truckers are strictly trained through CDL practice test and licensure programs.

·         Avoid a truck’s blind spots. The general rule of thumb is that if you can’t see their rear view mirror, they’re not able to see you. About a third of vehicle accidents occur due to a misunderstanding of blind spots, and these are immense for trucks.

·         Never cut close in front of a large vehicle. While navigating around slower trucks can be tempting, realize that trucks have difficult making quick stop. Even if it means missing an exit, taking this risk can put you and a trucker at risk.

·          Try to place several hundred feet between you and a truck before making a lane change. Generally, four to six seconds of space should be adequate. Increase your distance during wet conditions.

·         Don’t pass a truck on their right side when they’re taking a right turn. The arc of their rear wheels can easily result in an unpreventable accident.

In addition to following these tips, also consider what truckers have to manage on a daily basis. It’s wisest to avoid driving altogether when you’re fatigued, since this can result in dozing off behind the wheel. Even a seconds-long microsleep can be the difference between a safe journey and disaster. It’s also crucial to maintain your vehicle in safe driving condition, including your breaks, wheels, fluids, and any other potential concerns you may discover during regular inspections.

And, as always, drive defensively. Your goal should never be to get to point A to point B as efficiently as possible, but rather as safely as you can manage for yourself and those around you. It is estimated that at least two-thirds of traffic accidents are caused by aggressive, unnecessary risk-taking behaviors. Finally, while truckers are well-trained, it’s important to report any incidents of reckless driving to authorities as soon as you safely can. By following these tips, you can contribute in reducing annual truck accidents.

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Driver: Hank
Hank Barton is a second-generation trucker / philosopher who finds time to write about trucking and travelling when his hands are free from the steering wheel. He currently writes on behalf of eGears.
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