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5 differences between tractor trailers and passenger vehicles

| Dec 16, 2014 | Motor Vehicle Accident

According to a report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there has been an increase in accidents involving commercial vehicles in recent years. Illinois data shows that more than 5,500 truck crashes occurred in 2012, and statistics indicate that the passenger car occupants have the highest risk of injury. Of the 3,514 people killed in collisions involving tractor-trailers that year, only 17 percent were truck drivers. The other 83 percent were car occupants, pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. Car drivers may be tempted to treat 18-wheelers as they would any other automobile, but there are important differences that should be noted.

Car drivers should take extra precautions

One of the most obvious differences between commercial and passenger vehicles is the contrast in size and weight. A tractor trailer may weigh up to 80,000 pounds, while the average car is 3,500 pounds. The truck also has a much higher ground clearance. These two factors alone put the car in danger of being crushed.

Major risks also include the distance a commercial vehicle needs to make a turn or come to a complete stop. At intersections, the tractor trailer driver has to pull to the left to make a tight right hand turn, and to the right to make a left turn. When braking, a truck typically drives about 40 percent farther before coming to a complete stop. By allowing a larger distance between the car and the 18-wheeler, a driver may be able to prevent truck accidents in intersections and sudden braking situations.

A trucker has significant blind spots that can easily hide the presence of a smaller automobile. Although cameras and other technology have been added to cars in recent years, the 18-wheeler often still has only mirrors. The largest blind spots are on the right and rear of the trailer, and the right front corner and left side have smaller blind spots. When a passenger car driver is not able to see a truck driver in the mirrors, the car is probably in a blind spot. Driving at the same speed alongside a commercial vehicle or passing it on the right side increases the crash risk.

Truck driver negligence and error often create high risks

Although many collisions can be avoided if the car driver follows guidelines for safety when in the immediate vicinity of larger vehicles, trucker negligence is often a factor of serious injury or death in accidents. For example, an 18-wheeler operator is limited to 11 hours on the road during a work day, but many alter their log books so they can drive longer and receive a larger paycheck. This causes delayed responses and the inability to react quickly enough in emergency traffic situations.

High medical costs, permanent disabilities and death are often the result of crashes with tractor trailers. A Chicago injury lawyer may be able to help victims and family members devastated by an accident to receive full compensation.