As Missouri personal injury lawyers, we know that accidents involving semi-trucks commonly cause catastrophic, life-threatening injuries. Because of their immense size and weight, semi-trucks (and other commercial vehicles) handle differently than passenger cars and trucks. They require more time and space to speed up, to slow down, to turn and to stop. When a commercial truck collides with a smaller passenger vehicle, the potential for damage is enormous - and it's not difficult to guess who usually gets hurt. In 2009 fatal crashes between passenger vehicles and large trucks, 98% of deaths were passenger vehicle occupants, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Facts about semi-trucks
• A semi-truck can weigh 20 to 30 times as much as an average passenger vehicle.
• A semi with a fully loaded trailer requires 20 to 40% further to stop than the average passenger vehicle.
• The chance of a semi-truck accident resulting in a fatality increases with every ton of extra weight added beyond 80,000 pounds.
Driving responsibly near big trucks
• Give big trucks plenty of room. Don't follow too closely or encroach on the lane a large truck is traveling in. Allow even more space in inclement weather and at highway speeds.
• Never cut in front of a semi-truck. Again, they simply can't stop as quickly as you can. If you try to force a large truck to stop suddenly, you could cause a serious, even fatal accident. When you pass a semi on the highway, wait until you can see the front of the truck in your rearview mirror before shifting back to the right lane.
• Avoid what FMCSA authorities refer to as "squeeze play." Squeeze play occurs when a passenger vehicle attempts to cut between a semi-truck and the curb as the truck attempts to swing left and make a wide right turn.
• Make yourself visible to truck drivers. Statistics indicate that about one-third of collisions between large trucks and passenger vehicles occur in the truck's oversized blind spots. Semi-trucks don't have rearview mirrors, so truckers exclusively use their side mirrors to monitor nearby traffic. Remember that old rule of thumb: if you can't see a semi-truck's side mirrors, you should assume the driver can't see you. Don't linger in truckers' blind spots, also known as "No Zones," which are located along the side and immediately behind a semi-truck.
• Pay attention to a truck's turn signals and brake lights. These signals indicate that a truck is about to perform a maneuver - and they may also indicate that a truck driver doesn't see you. Be alert and attentive when traveling near a semi.
For more information about large trucks and passenger vehicle safety, visit sharetheroadsafely.org.