Avoiding Collisions With Tractor Trailers in Massachusetts

Now that the colder, winter-like weather is creeping up on us and the driving conditions worsen, increased care should be given when driving on our Massachusetts highways and roadways. This is especially so when confronting large commercial trucks.

There are approximately 16 million commercial trucks operating on the roads in the United States. They account for a great deal of traffic, but also a great deal of risk in terms of physical injury. The sheer size and weight of trailer-trucks have a huge impact on the amount of damage and the significance of bodily injury that can result from this specific type of accident. Below I will discuss some common causes of trucking accidents and ways to avoid them.

Common Types of Commercial Trailer-Truck Accidents

While there are countless ways trailer-trucks can cause or be involved in accidents, in all of the trucking accidents we have handled in Massachusetts three stand out as the most common. The three most common types of accidents involving tractor trailers include:

1) Collisions caused by a truck being unable to stop in time or within the distance available. The legal weight for an eighteen wheeler is 80,000 lbs. or 40 tons. Compare that to the average weight of a passenger car, which is approximately 5,000 lbs. So, it goes without saying that the stopping distance for a car travelling at 55mph is much less than that of a tractor trailer; approximately 250 feet versus 320 feet respectively. A rear-end collision caused by a truck weighing close to 80,000 lbs can result in horrific injuries or even death.

2) Collisions caused by a passenger vehicle passing a tractor trailer on the right while the tractor trailer is making a right turn, also known as the “right turn squeeze”. This is a very common type of trucking crash. This type of accident is generally caused by the truck swinging too wide when making a right turn, failing to use a signal turn, or motorists attempting to pass the truck in a hurry not realizing the truck is turning right.

3) Collisions caused by vehicles traveling in a truckers blind spot. We’ve all heard the term “blind spots” when referring to trucks and buses. The old saying is true, if you can’t see my mirrors then I can’t see you. The size, including the height and length, of the truck contributes to the large blind spots that can cause trucking accidents. The average length of the standard tractor-trailer or eighteen wheeler is about 70 to 80 feet. This limits the visibility the truck driver has on the sides and rear of the truck. In some situations, the truck driver just doesn’t see a smaller passenger vehicle in the blind spot when executing a trucking maneuver and crashes right into the car.

While, of course these are not the only types of trucking accidents, when you add other factors such as poor weather conditions, driver fatigue, poor maintenance, tight delivery schedules and substance abuse, even minor deviations in safe driving techniques can result in severe accidents and considerable bodily injury.

Ways to Try and Avoid Being Involved in a Trucking Accident

There are certain driving techniques that can reduce the probability of motor vehicle or trucking collisions. Many of them you already know, but perhaps some you may need to be refreshed on. 

Always keep a safe distance behind or in front of a tractor trailer. If you need to stop, be aware of the distance between you and the truck in front or behind you. Allow for sufficient stopping distance between you and the truck you are behind. Traveling at high speeds next to a tractor trailer on the highway can be particularly dangerous because there is a slim margin of error on the part of both vehicles that could result in contact.  Move ahead or behind the truck always keeping aware of your speed.

In snow and rain conditions, tractor trailers always cause water to be sprayed to the sides virtually blinding the roadway for a considerable distance. As you drive next to the truck, your sight of the roadway may be fine but those following you could be in danger. Move ahead of the truck thereby allowing drivers behind you to do the same.

Slow down when road conditions call for it. Fog, snow, rain and ice all contribute to accidents. I was recently traveling on the Massachusetts Turnpike on a very rainy night out past Sturbridge where the road was two lanes in each direction. A driver, maintaining their speed exactly next to a tractor trailer was causing considerable problems for the drivers behind. Move ahead and then move to the right lane.  Be aware of other drivers sharing the road.

Even ordinary passenger cars have blind spots, the area to the sides where you can’t see peripherally or in your mirrors. You must make it a habit to be conscious of the mirrors on large vehicles. You should position yourself so that truck drivers are aware of your presence before executing a move. 

Trucking Accidents Often Result in Serious Injuries

Due to the size and weight of commercial trucks, crashes at high rates of speed on the highway often result in serious bodily injury or even death. There are, on average, three thousand fatalities on the U.S. roadways involving large trucks according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Also, the National Center for Statistics and Analysis reported that in 2014 large trucks accounted for more than 5% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents on Massachusetts’ roadways. These reports just go to show the seriousness of trucking accidents.

Also, it is not uncommon for accident victims to suffer broken bones, serious spinal injuries and permanent injuries, including scarring, from trucking accidents. Our office has successfully represented numerous people, who have been seriously injured in a trucking accident. We have seen the serious injuries that can result from these types of accidents and the impact they can have on someone’s life. Common sense and courtesy can reduce your chances of injury.  Be patient. You never know when the lives that will be saved are the result of you good driving habits.       

Speak With Trucking Accident Attorney Today

If you’ve been seriously hurt in an accident with a large commercial truck, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. A successful injury claim or lawsuit starts with prompt legal action.

Mahaney & Pappas, LLP is dedicated to representing accident victims. Our main goal is to get clients the maximum financial compensation that they deserve for the injuries and damages they suffered. If you or someone you know has been injured in a truck accident, please contact us online or call (508) 879-3500 for a complimentary meeting to discuss your claim.