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Three Reasons Why Large Truck Crashes Are So Deadly

There’s no good kind of auto accident, but if there’s a type of crash you would want to avoid more than any other, it would be a crash with a tractor-trailer or other large commercial truck.

In 2014, car passengers accounted for 97% of fatalities in two-vehicle accidents that involved a large truck. Taking into account all large truck crashes that year, there were over 3,600 fatalities, and 84% of those were comprised of pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, or occupants of other vehicles.

These crashes can be caused by a multitude of factors, but the results are almost always disastrous. To understand why, you should be aware of three major differences between large trucks and cars.

1. Weight and Size 

The U.S. Department of Transportation defines a large truck as one weighing more than 10,000 pounds, but they can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. The average passenger car, on the other hand, only weighs between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds. In addition, while a typical passenger vehicle, whether a car or a truck, is 12 to 18 feet long, large trucks can be 45 to 65 feet long.

These size differences alone create much higher risks for damage, injury, and even death to anyone in a passenger vehicle that’s involved in a large truck crash. 

2. Maneuverability 

Because of the length and heavy mass of a large truck, drivers simply can’t avoid obstacles as quickly. While a small car would need a radius of about 25 feet to turn in a complete circle, a large truck would need more than twice that distance to complete the same maneuver.

A large truck also doesn’t have the ability to quickly swerve to avoid an obstacle or another car due its large size. And if a truck is hauling a trailer, a sudden stop could cause the vehicle to “jackknife,” which is when the trailer begins to skid and moves at an angle to the cab, creating a “V” shape. This is a very dangerous situation not only for the truck driver, but for any vehicles or people in the truck’s path.

3. Stopping Distance 

The laws of physics dictate that the larger a vehicle is, the harder it is to stop once it gets moving. If another vehicle suddenly brakes or another obstacle appears in the road, a large truck needs more space to be able to avoid a crash than a car would.

At 65 miles per hour, a car takes a little over 300 feet to stop, whereas a large truck takes more than 520 feet. And in addition to sheer mass, a large truck’s size creates extra lag time between the moment that a truck driver presses the brake pedal and when the signal reaches all the wheels.

Use These Safety Tips to Avoid a Crash

Reports conflict as to who is at fault for most trucking accidents. A report from the American Trucking Association found that in more than 80% of accidents between cars and trucks, the car driver was at fault. However, other data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that between 44% and 55% of fatal crashes are caused by truck drivers.

Of course, you can’t control whether a large truck driver makes a negligent decision that puts you at risk of harm, but you can always try to reduce your risk as much as possible by doing everything in your power to avoid a crash. Therefore, you should follow these tips to help keep everyone safe on the road:

  • Never cut off a truck, and make sure they have plenty of room to stop before moving in front of them.
  • Never pass on the right side of a truck — they have a much larger blind spot on the right and may not see you.
  • Remember that since trucks have such a large turning radius, they may need to swing right in order to turn left and vice versa. Never drive between a turning truck and the side of the road.
  • In general, remember that trucks are large, bulky vehicles that have poor sightlines, so give them plenty of space. Help the truck driver by staying out of blind spots and putting your turn signal on early so they have plenty of time to maneuver.

Contact Perry Charnoff If You’ve Been Injured

If you’ve suffered a catastrophic injury or lost a loved one in a truck crash or other motor vehicle accident, you may be entitled to compensation, and the attorneys at Perry Charnoff PLLC are here to help. At Perry Charnoff, we use our years of trial experience and our network of expert medical resources to fight for justice on behalf of injury victims.

Call us today at (703) 291-6650 or fill out our online contact form and we’ll schedule a free initial consultation to evaluate your case and discuss your legal options.


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