The number of accidents involving large trucks in Florida is a matter of great concern. As per a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Florida highways were the scene of 6.6 percent of all 2008 commercial truck fatal accidents in the nation.
It makes sense that many accidents with so-called tractor-trailers and semis take place in Florida highways, since ports in that state — like Miami — are important access points for merchandise coming into the U.S. Once in port, much of the cargo is moved by road into the rest of the country by large commercial trucks which, given their size, usually cause catastrophic injuries or death when involved in accidents with other vehicles.
Causes Of Semi Accidents
Despite recent efforts by state agencies, such as the Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Department of Transportation, to increase the safe operation of large trucks and tractor-trailers, crashes involving these commercial vehicles are not likely to disappear any time soon.
The main causes of accidents involving tractor-trailers include:
- Driver fatigue: Under federal regulations, commercial drivers may only drive a maximum of 11 hours per day, and must receive a full 10 hours off between shifts. Employers, shippers, and receivers may pressure drivers to exceed these limits to move freight more quickly. Thus drivers may be too tired to properly operate their vehicles, making the truckers less attentive and more likely to misjudge potentially dangerous situations on roads.
- Alcohol and drug use: Alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter medications, and illegal drugs, often used to help drivers stay awake and work longer, may adversely affect a driver's ability to properly control his or her vehicle. Because of the size and weight of commercial trucks, even small mistakes can be deadly.
- Speed: Pressure to meet deadlines can cause drivers to increase speed, making accidents more likely to occur. Tractor-trailers are unable to stop in as short a distance as noncommercial vehicles because of the size and weight of the much larger trucks. With high speeds involved, these crashes involving these supersized vehicles often result in serious injury or death.
- Improperly loaded freight: An incorrectly secured load on a tractor-trailer may shift suddenly during transport, causing the driver to lose control of his or her vehicle. Overeager shippers may also overload a truck, which increases strain on the brakes and makes the vehicle even more difficult to stop. There are strict regulations for loading-trucks, as overloading is a common contributing cause of crashes.
- Inadequate maintenance: Semis are often on the road for long hours and they require complex, specialized maintenance. There are numerous state and federal regulations regarding the regular and necessary maintenance of commercial trucks. If a critical system on a truck, such as the brakes, steering or suspension, has been improperly or poorly maintained, it may fail, increasing the risk of a crash.
While large trucks do present some potential dangers to drivers of smaller vehicles, motorists can protect themselves and others by following some simple rules:
- Beware of blind spots: Large trucks have larger blind spots — also called no-zones — than cars. Commercial drivers cannot see cars immediately in front, behind or on either side of their trucks. Motorists should try to spend as little time as possible in trucks' no-zones and should follow behind trucks no closer than two car lengths.
- Watch for wide turns: Semis must sometimes swing wide to the left in order to safely make a right-hand turn, particularly at tight intersections. Unaware motorists sometimes attempt to pass a truck on the right as it turns and the smaller vehicle can become trapped between the curb and the truck. Drivers should always give semis plenty of room to maneuver at difficult crossroads.
- Do not cut in front of large trucks: Because semis weigh more than cars, it takes trucks longer to stop. Drivers who change lanes and fail to provide tractor-trailers with enough space may create emergency braking situations, particularly in heavy traffic. Before attempting to pass and switch lanes in front of a truck, a driver should make sure he or she can see the front of the truck in his or her rearview mirror.
- No distracted driving: Motorists preoccupied with cellphones, MP3 players and other electronic devices may not see brake lights or other signals. In fact, recent studies indicate that engaging in some activities while driving, such as texting, substantially increases the risk of accidents.
What To Do If You Are In An Accident
Despite the best efforts of both truck drivers and motorists, accidents do occur. If you or someone you love is in an accident with a large truck, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
For more information about possible legal claims, contact an experienced lawyer. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney can provide you with information about your rights.