Most truck accidents are preventable. Human error is the top cause of accidents involving large commercial trucks in Texas and across the nation.
Although you cannot control the actions of truck drivers or their employers, you can control your own behaviors behind the wheel. Learning how to prevent truck accidents is essential for any motorist sharing the road with commercial vehicles.
Top 8 Tips To Help Motorists Avoid Truck Collisions
We know that not all accidents can be prevented, especially when a truck driver acts negligently and endangers the lives of others. But doing your part to promote road safety can be the difference between a major collision and arriving at your destination without incident.
The truck accident attorneys from Buckingham & Vega Law Firm have put together our top tips for how to prevent truck accidents. Practicing these safety measures every time you drive can help you and your family stay safe when sharing the road with large commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).
#1: Avoid Truck-Heavy Routes
If at all possible, try to shift your route so you can avoid the major thoroughfares you know will be populated with tractor-trailers.
For those driving in and around Houston, the most heavily populated trucking routes in our area include:
- Interstate 10 (I-10)
- Interstate 45 (I-45)
- Interstate 610 (The Loop)
- State Highway 35 (SH 35)
- State Highway 288 (SH 288)
- State Highway 249 (Tomball Parkway)
You should also take into consideration the time of day you will be traveling. Statistically, the majority of truck accidents occur between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. However, you may find there are a few “truck rush hours” at odd times of the day, as truckers don’t adhere to the 9-5 work schedule of most commuters. There could be higher numbers of semi-trucks on the road between:
- Midnight and 4 a.m.
- 6:00 a.m. and 10 a.m.
- 7:00 p.m. and 10 p.m.
#2: Practice Defensive Driving
The defensive driving tips you may have learned as a new driver are even more important when it comes to preventing tractor-trailer accidents. Trucks take much longer to stop after braking than passenger vehicles do. The more space you can create between yourself and a semi-truck, the more time you’ll both have to react safely if something goes wrong.
Keep in mind the following defensive driving tactics when navigating near large trucks:
- Always be aware of the location of trucks near you
- Never tailgate (keep at least a 3-4 second distance, if not more)
- Don’t cut a truck off by swerving in too close to the front of the vehicle
- Give a truck plenty of room to make turns
- Don’t ride along beside a truck for extended distances
- Pass quickly, always using turn signals well in advance
- Don’t “hang out” in the left lane and force trucks to your right
- Don’t let a truck ride your tail—move over and give them room to pass
- Stay alert, and don’t assume you know what a truck driver is going to do
- Try never to become trapped between two or more semi-trucks on the highway
#3: Understand a Truck’s Blind Spots
Blind spots are the areas where a driver has limited or no visibility. All cars have blind spots, but the ones on a large tractor-trailer are much larger than the ones you deal with in your car, pickup truck, or SUV.
A truck has four major blind spots:
- At least 20 feet in front of the vehicle
- Roughly 30 feet behind the back of the trailer
- Behind the driver’s cab and most of the area along the left side of the trailer
- Almost the entire right side of the tractor-trailer
A good rule of thumb to follow is printed on most truck drivers’ side mirrors: If you can’t see the driver’s face, they can’t see you. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) refers to a truck’s blind spots as “No Zones,” advising all motorists to avoid these areas as much as possible.
#4: Be Wary of Parked Trucks
Under most non-emergency circumstances, a truck driver is not allowed to park their vehicle along the side of the road to rest. That’s what rest stops and truck stops are for. But as you probably know, it’s not unusual to see 18-wheelers lining on and off ramps or sections of the highway at night.
If you are driving in limited visibility conditions, be on the lookout for tractor-trailers parked roadside, especially on highway exit ramps. Serious and fatal accidents have occurred because a motorist didn’t see a truck stopped on the road shoulder. There are strict federal regulations to prevent truck accidents like these, but people get hurt when a driver violates these laws. Take extra caution to look for parked trucks when it is dark, raining, or foggy.
#5: Drive Predictably
To be a predictable driver, you need to let other motorists around you know what you plan to do. Signal your intention to move early and clearly. Never make sudden, last-minute lane changes, turns, or merges. Keep your speed steady and refrain from braking abruptly unless you need to. Minimize lane changes. Stay in one lane at a consistent speed as much as you can. Driving predictably is one of the most important factors in preventing truck accidents.
#6: Never Drive Impaired
It should be obvious that drunk driving causes accidents. But distracted driving can be just as dangerous. To prevent truck accidents, you need to be an alert driver focused on the road and ready to react quickly to changing conditions. Any type of impairment inhibits your ability to do that.
Impaired driving can take the form of:
- Drunk driving
- Driving under the influence of prescription or illegal drugs, including marijuana
- Texting and driving
- Driving while talking on the phone
- Other types of distracted driving
- Driving while fatigued
#7: Remember the Differences Between Cars and Commercial Trucks
The FMCSA urges passenger vehicle drivers to consider the differences between cars and large CMVs like tractor-trailers. Operating a semi-truck is a much more involved task than driving a small passenger car.
When sharing the road with 18-wheelers, consider that:
- Trucks have much longer stopping distances than cars
- A tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds—20 to 30 times the weight of a car
- Any crash involving a truck is much more likely to result in injuries and fatalities
- Trucks are vulnerable to swaying and rollovers due to broadsides and high centers of gravity
- A truck can create a wind gust that can knock a smaller car off its course
- A truck driver can lose control of acceleration on a downhill or around curves
- Trucks need more time than cars to climb steep uphill roads
- A truck needs a wide berth to make a turn, especially when turning left
- Trucks are much higher off the ground, and a passenger vehicle can become trapped beneath if a crash occurs
#8: Learn To Recognize Reckless Truck Driver Behaviors
Part of being an attentive and defensive motorist is watching for signs of truck driver negligence. If you notice any of the signs listed below, you may be sharing the road with a reckless, impaired, distracted, or fatigued trucker. Keep as far from the truck as possible. Call the police if you believe the situation is life-threatening. You can also report non-emergency reckless driving through FMCSA’s
- Excessive speeding
- Continuous tailgating
- Weaving in and out of lanes
- Erratic braking
- Ignoring stop signs or traffic lights
- Wrong-way driving
- Neglecting to use turn signals
- Driving at night without lights
Get Help After a Houston 18-Wheeler Accident Caused by Trucking Industry Negligence
Even if you know how to prevent truck accidents and always practice safe driving habits, you can still be injured by a negligent truck driver or trucking company. The truck accident attorneys from Buckingham & Vega Law Firm fight for the rights of Houston residents injured in preventable trucking accidents.
Contact our Texas office to schedule a free consultation with an experienced lawyer.