Sharing the Roadway with Semi-Tractor Trailers: Motorist Safety Tips

Statistical data demonstrates that the drivers of passenger cars and other motor vehicles, as opposed to truck drivers, are more commonly identified as the cause of trucking collisions. In addition, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, passenger car occupants are nearly four times more likely than truckers to suffer fatality in such collisions. Consequently, the Truck Accident Injury & Fatality Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. find it beneficial to remind motorists of the dangers of sharing roadways with semi-tractor trailers, and more importantly the appropriate safety precautions to take.

While ideally it would be best if motorists could completely steer clear of big-rigs, we know this is nearly impossible. However, by understanding the manners in which truck accidents often occur, motorists are that share the roadway with these massive vehicles are better able to protect themselves from accident, injury, and fatality.

Tip #1 — Beware of Truckers that are Tailgating
Although tailgating is unlawful, truckers do it all the time. If a truck driver is traveling too closely behind you, and you suddenly brake, the driver may not be able to react in time. Also keep in mind, that whenever descending from an incline, a large truck, due to its weight, will pick up speed. Passenger car drivers should immediately move over, in a safe manner, whenever possible, if they feel they are being tailgated by a large truck.

Tip #2 — Keep a Safe Distance behind Trucks
In other words, refrain from tailgating yourself. Studies have shown that remaining at least 20 car lengths behind a truck is considered to be a safe distance. This is often referred to as the ‘four-second rule.’ Tailgating a truck not only puts you in the truck driver’s blind spot, but also restricts your own ability to see what is ahead of you (i.e. roadway obstructions; slowing/stopped traffic; motor vehicle collisions).

Tip #3 — Beware of Speeding Truckers
Truck drivers that speed put everyone at risk that they share the roadway with, especially in inclement weather. In addition, because drivers of passenger vehicles have no way of knowing whether the truck’s cargo has been properly loaded, or if the truck’s mechanisms are in proper working condition (i.e. steering, brakes tires), a speeding semi can have devastating consequences, in the event that a truck driver or another motorist loses control of their vehicle.

Tip #4 — Know the Truck Driver’s Blind Spots
There are four areas that surround a truck-left side, right side, front, and rear-referred to as ‘no-zones,’ that motorists should steer clear of. Driving directly next to the truck’s right passenger side can be particularly dangerous, because the trucker may change lanes into your pathway if he/she is unable to see you. If you feel that a truck driver cannot see your vehicle, or if a truck has begun to move into your lane, use your horn to signal the driver of your presence.

Tip #5 – Use Caution when Passing, Overtaking, or Changing Lanes
If you must pass/overtake a truck, only do so from the lane to the left of a truck. Use your turn signals and give the truck driver ample time to become aware of your intention to pass. Pass the truck quickly, and refrain from lingering alongside a truck. After passing a truck, make sure that there is sufficient space between the rear of your vehicle and the front of the truck, particularly if you intend on changing lanes back to the lane occupied by the semi. Make adjustments as necessary, depending on roadway conditions and weather-related factors.

Tip #6 — Report Dangerous Drivers
If you feel that a semi-truck is being operated in a dangerous, reckless, unlawful, or negligent manner, report the driver. Take note of the contact information located on the rear of the truck and/or the logo on the truck, as well as your precise location, date, and time. You can then contact local authorities, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and/or the parent company of the truck being reported.

Tip #7 – Know your Legal Rights
The trucking industry is strictly regulated by the federal government. If you or a loved one are involved in a collision with a large truck, it is important to know that in addition to criminal liability, the truck driver and/or their employer can also be held civilly liable for damages caused as a result of negligent, reckless, or unlawful actions or omissions. Depending on the truck’s weight, and the cargo being carried, FMCSA requires proof of financial responsibility, either through liability insurance or the purchase of a surety bond, ranging in amounts from $750,000 up to $5 million.

Given that 1 out of every 10 highway deaths involve large trucks, it is critical that drivers use the utmost of caution whenever sharing a roadway with a semi-tractor trailer. In the unfortunate event a collision does occur, the Chicago Trucking Accident Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. want to help you and your family in obtaining the maximum amount of financial compensation deserved. Contact us to schedule your FREE case evaluation by calling 773-516-4100, or by using the online form provided on this page.