Drivers of tractor trailers are bound by a strict set of regulations as to when they can and cannot operate their vehicle. The first set of such restrictions was put in place in 1938 with the most recent update being in July of 2013. This most recent legislation limits the amount of time drivers can spend driving before they must take a 10 hour break from the cab of their vehicle.
Such laws are aimed at reducing the rate of traffic accidents involving 18-wheelers and automobiles. Data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that in 2009, there were 286,000 crashes that involved large trucks. According to a recent report by the American Trucking Associates, drivers of automobiles were cited with fault in this type of crash 81 percent of the time.
By increasing awareness of 18-wheelers, many truck accidents may be avoided. A tractor trailer, because of its weight and size cannot be expected to perform the same way as a passenger vehicle. In order to show more awareness for tractor trailers, motorists can do the following:
- Avoid cut-offs – Many drivers pull in front of a semi when there is a long line of traffic merging from two lanes to one. A semi is 25 times heavier than most passenger cars and trucks. This means that an 18-wheeler might need up to 45 additional feet of space in order to come to a complete stop when it is traveling at 55 miles per hour. If traffic stops suddenly, there is nowhere for the semi to go except into the back of the vehicle.
- Avoid blind spots – Blind spots on an 18-wheeler are much larger than those on other types of vehicles. This is because the driver must rely on only what can be seen out of the windows of the cab. One good rule of thumb is that if a passenger car cannot see the mirrors on an 18 – wheeler, then the truck driver probably cannot see them either.
- Avoid following too closely – The back of a tractor trailer is also a blind spot. Some drivers, in an effort to achieve higher gas mileage engage in the practice of driving close to the back end of the trailer. By doing this, they are putting themselves at increased risk of an accident because the driver cannot see them there. A safe distance for following this type of vehicle is 20-25 car lengths.
It is important for drivers to understand the risks associated with sharing the road with 18-wheelers in order to make safe driving decisions.
Awareness and courtesy
By developing better driver awareness, it is possible that many truck accidents can be avoided. Common sense and courtesy on the nation’s roadways will ensure a lower accident rate, and possibly a lower mortality rate for drivers of all vehicles.