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4 Factors That Make Tractor Trailers More Dangerous

Truck drivers work long hours in the cab of their truck, and that truck faces a lot of punishment on the road.  Both the truck and the driver have factors that make them a huge danger to others on the road.  Truck drivers do a dangerous job – the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2015, about 25.2 truck drivers per 100,000 full-time workers suffers a fatal injury on the job – one of the highest rates for any profession.  It is likely that most of those fatal injuries for truck drivers are not suffered from single-truck crashes, and often involve the death or injury of other motorists, too.

Trucks are not like other cars – and their drivers do not drive like other drivers on the road.  Most people drive cars to and from work, or maybe on longer business or family trips.  The AAA Foundation reports that the average American spends about 48 minutes in the car each day.  Truck drivers, on the other hand, are permitted to work 11-hour shifts – that’s almost 14-times what the average American spends in the car in a day.

What, aside from the time average, can make trucks so dangerous?

The National Sleep Foundation, in 2005, found that approximately 37% of adults have actually fallen asleep at the wheel.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that about 100,000 crashes are caused each year by drowsy driving.  For truck drivers, who spend so long on the road, this risk of tired driving grows.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has an entire webpage devoted to warning truckers about tired driving.  It warns that the time of day, not actually the time on the road, has the biggest effect on drowsy driving.  Even so, it recommends that the only way to really fix tired driving is to pull over and sleep.

1. Driver Fatigue

Those truckers who fail to do this, or rely on “alertness tricks” like turning up the radio or using caffeine just mask the problems temporarily, and still put other drivers at risk from their sleep-deprivation.

2. Visibility

Trucks are big, and they block visibility for other drivers.  Trying to pass a truck on the highway is a huge point of anxiety for so many drivers, which causes slowdowns (especially when trucks fail to keep right unless passing – which is required by law in many states).

An even greater danger are the blind spots in a truck driver’s view.  These huge vehicles go out on the road, but cannot even see much of the space around them.  If you’ve ever been next to a truck that decided to switch lanes, you probably understand why so many other drivers are afraid to pass trucks.

Trucks have blind spots directly in front of them (extending a bit farther on the passenger side), directly behind them, and for much of the space behind and to the side of the cab (next to the trailer).  Trucks are equipped with mirrors on the side, which usually include flat and curved mirrors, but these do not always help them see.  A large trailer prevents truckers from being able to use a rear-view mirror, and curved side-view mirrors – while intended to increase visibility – skew the way shapes appear and distort distances.  Driving in a truck’s blind spot is never a good idea, so always be careful when sharing the road with a truck.

3. Drug Abuse

Whether they’re using legal or illegal substances, truck drivers often counter their tired driving by relying upon caffeine, prescription medication, or even illegal drugs to keep themselves alert and awake.  While staying awake may seem like a good idea, many times these substances just mask the effects of sleep-deprivation or create larger dangers when used while operating heavy machinery.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration warns on their tired driving page that even caffeine can have negative effects.  It can cause insomnia and nervousness – and on-edge drivers are not paragons of safety.  Large quantities of caffeine just makes people jittery, and does not actually cancel-out the effects of sleep deprivation.

Further, reliance upon things like Adderall, cocaine, or even the “buzz” alcohol provides is a horrible long-term plan and is often a crime.  Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol is illegal in every state because of the dangers it poses.

4. Sheer Size and Weight

A tractor-trailer has a legal weight limit of 80,000 pounds.  Compared to a Hummer H2 at 8,600 pounds, a Jeep Grand Cherokee at around 4,800 pounds and a Honda Civic at about 2,800 pounds, trucks are huge.  They can require almost 20-times the stopping distance of a normal car.  If loaded improperly, they create even larger risks.  If the weight is stored too high up inside the trailer, it creates a rollover hazard, and with weight stored too far towards the rear, there is a risk that a trailer can violently swerve and flip.

Speak to Knowledgeable Truck Accident Lawyers

Making sure that a truck and its driver are safe on the road is the responsibility of the truck driver and the trucking company – not other drivers on the road.  If you have been injured in a car crash with a truck driver, contact an I-95 in Virginia truck accident lawyer of the Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team.  We can help you get the representation you need to get financial compensation for your injuries.  Call (215) 246-9000 for a free consultation.

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