Fatal truck crashes throughout the United States are currently at a 10-year high, with the midwest seeing its fair share of large truck-related accidents.
For instance, Central Indiana alone has recently had numerous fatal truck crashes of its own. Earlier this month, three people died–including a one-year-old girl–when a commercial truck was not paying attention to the road and slammed into slowing traffic on I-65, killing everyone in the car in front of him.
The collision set of a chain of crashes involving eight passenger vehicles and one tractor-trailer, and marks Indiana’s third deadly accident since July of 2019 involving a distracted or impaired truck driver.
Just over two years ago, the industry reported that over 12 million trucks weighing at least 10,000 pounds hit public roads. Experts say a large increase in e-commerce sales, as well as a booming economy, are the reason.
“At the end of the day, it’s all of our responsibility to make sure we have safe highways,” said American Trucking Associations spokesman Sean McNally.
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Board, nearly 5,000 people died in incidents involving large trucks in 2017, and 72% of those who were killed were the drivers and passengers of other vehicles. 82% were multi-vehicle crashes.
“We are seeing more of these accidents as distracted driving becomes more of an issue,” said Stephen Wagner, an Indianapolis attorney who represents semi crash victims. “Fortunately, we’re seeing prosecutors taking these cases seriously and charging people when their inattention takes people’s lives.”
Because of this, experts are offering safety advice for drivers who may be sharing the road with truckers:
- Drive defensively
Being a defensive driver and anticipating unexpected actions of others can help you make much safer decisions.
“Most people tell me that they feel like they’re good drivers; it’s other drivers they’re worried about,” said Sgt. John Perrine of the Indiana State Police.
2. Pay extra attention when approaching a work zone
When traffic slows ahead of a construction or work zone, conditions can become especially dangerous.
According to Perrine, you should always leave yourself an exit (such as staying close to a shoulder), and keep an eye on your mirrors to avoid any potential mistakes by other drivers or issues caused by changes in road conditions or speed.
3. Avoid a truck’s blind spots
Although all vehicles have blind spots, a truck’s are much bigger and much more dangerous. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind–if you can’t see a truck’s mirrors, the trucker cannot see you.
Chris Turner, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s crash and data programs director, agrees.
“Stay out of the blind spot, pass with plenty of distance, [and] make sure you can see all of the cab in the rearview mirror” before merging, he explained.
4. Give trucks plenty of space
Always make sure to leave a bigger amount of space between your car and a large truck. Trucks need hundreds of feet to stop while driving at highway speeds due to their weight and size.
“Those vehicles just can’t stop. Their mass is so much more intensified,” said Turner. “A passenger car would have to be going roughly 200 miles per hour to do the same damage.
5. Obey all laws and speed limits, and use your turn signal
Speeding, especially on a busy highway, can greatly increase your chances of a crash. When failing to use your turn signal, those changes grow even more.
Sticking to traffic laws, no matter how simple, will always make it safer for you, other drivers, and trucks.
6. Put your phone away
When it comes to road safety, all driving and trucking experts have one key point they always want to drive home: cellphones are one of the biggest culprits in distracting drivers and wreaking havoc on the road.
“Please,” said Peter Kurdock of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, “put the phone down.”
All of these tips include one major aspect: paying close attention to the road while driving. Although commercial vehicles are the biggest danger to drivers and passengers alike, Boone County Sheriff Michael T. Nielsen asserts that any kind of distracted driving is an enormous problem and huge safety risk.
“The Boone County Sheriff’s Office feels strongly that those [who] cause death on our public roadways, because of driver inattention, should be held accountable,” he said. “Please pay attention to your driving when operating a motor vehicle. Give yourself plenty of room to have a way out [and] put down your phone or other objects.”