For most of the drivers here in Maryland and Washington, D.C., maintaining the safety of oneself and one’s vehicle occupants involves more than a modicum of active participation. In short, to survive in this part of the country a drive must, out of necessity, watch out for the other guy.
What this means for the average passenger car, light truck and motorcycle rider is to be certain that your vehicle is well-maintained, tuned up and mechanically safe and sound. We won’t go into a discussion on the dangers of defective vehicle equipment here, but suffice it to say that a percentage of roadway wrecks are sometimes found to be a result of poorly designed safety components and other critical systems, such as steering and braking systems (an area of law known as Products Liability).
As Maryland personal injury lawyers, I and my legal staff understand the causes of many traffic accidents and how easily a quiet Sunday drive can turn into a serious and sometimes life-threatening event. Keeping a vehicle in good running condition is a basic requirement for safe driving. This goes as much for automobiles as it does for commercial trucks, usually more so.
Speaking of trucking-related accidents, one cannot argue with the laws of physics when it comes to serious traffic accidents involving semi tractor-trailers, such as Kenworths, Peterbilts, and Mack Trucks; not to mention large box trucks and rather heavy and extremely dangerous tanker trucks.
Many passenger car occupants, not to mention motorcyclists, are killed on a tragically frequent basis when they become caught involved in a crash with a commercial delivery vehicle or 18-wheeler. Those smaller, lighter and less substantial motor vehicles are hardly a match for a fully loaded semi, commuter bus or dump truck. Injuries from car-truck collision can take months or years to recover from, both physically and financially, which makes prevention a no-brainer.
What the trucking industry can do to improve everyone’s chances in the future covers a wide range of preventative measures, as well as increased driver awareness and better monitoring of drivers’ performance in the cab.
As professionals, commercial truckers are personally responsible for safety and safe operation of these relatively large and massive motor vehicles. Despite increased attention and inroads into curbing fatal trucking accidents, almost 5,000 people nationwide are killed annually in auto-truck highway collisions; approximately 100,000 people are injured every year in commercial trucking accidents. It’s no stretch to say that any number of deaths or injuries due to traffic accidents is unacceptable.
Truck accidents can occur as a result of both truck driver negligence or due to the inattention or negligence of another motorist or pedestrian. No matter which party caused the crash, in most instances it is the pedestrian, biker, cyclist or passenger car occupant who receives the brunt of the injuries, many of them catastrophic or even fatal.
As professional drivers, commercial truckers should always be held to a higher standard of safety. This is not just a suggestion, but is a fact of law. It is likely that if commercial truckers exercised added caution many serious or fatal roadway accidents could possibly be avoided, or at least have their effects lessened.
As a suggested list of safety tips for truck and bus drivers, here are a few key points to follow for better traffic safety:
— Don’t go out on the road without being thoroughly rested
— Don’t exceed the maximum Hours of Service (HOS) allowed when operating a commercial motor vehicle
— Keep your truck’s necessary maintenance items up to date; this includes performing a physical inspection of critical components including the vehicle’s brake system prior to hitting the road
— Watch your blind spots religiously (It’s well-known that 30 percent of trucking-related collisions take place in a truck’s “No-Zone” area)
— Slow down when passing through construction (Nearly a third of all fatal work-zone accidents involve commercial trucks)
— Maintain a safe cushion between your rig and the vehicles ahead of you (typically, when a commercial vehicle rear ends a passenger car, the trucker is more likely than not to be held responsible for the accident)
— Wear your safety belt and, above all, drive defensively
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)