Understanding the Differences Between 18-wheelers and Passenger Vehicles

There were approximately 3,500 fatalities in 2012 resulting from crashes involving tractor trailers and cars, and most of the victims were in the smaller vehicles.  Trucks are often around 80,000 pounds and have a higher ground clearance in addition to their overall height, creating a greater likelihood that smaller vehicles will be crushed. However, this is not the only contributor to the vulnerability of motorists to serious injuries and fatalities.

Trucks need more space

At highway speeds, a tractor trailer may require the length of two football fields in order to come to a complete stop. The size and weight disparity contributes directly to the longer braking time that trucks need. Stopping distance includes the following:

  • Awareness of the hazard
  • Time needed to react
  • Braking distance

Drivers who attempt to squeeze their cars into tight spots between trucks and other vehicles, or pass trucks and slow down, put themselves at risk for truck accidents.

Tractor trailers require a lot of space in order to make right turns at intersections, and this often involves pulling to the left in order to make it around a tight corner. Similarly, a long commercial vehicle may need to swing right on a left hand turn in order to avoid cars on its left side.

Tips for car drivers

By following precautions based on the differences between 18-wheelers and typical passenger vehicles, drivers can avoid some of the hazards that happen on the roads and highways. Following too closely behind a tractor trailer creates an unnecessary risk. Traffic situations and road debris may be ahead, but because of the difficulty seeing around the truck, the driver does not have time to react. There should always be at least three seconds following distance between the truck and the car.

Some cars and SUVs have blind spots, but those are nothing compared to the blind spots a trucker has. The right and rear of the tractor trailer have the largest blind spots. There are also smaller blind spots on the right front corner and mid-left side. If a driver cannot see the truck driver in the mirrors, it is safe to assume that the truck driver cannot see the car. Passing a truck on the right hand side or driving beside a truck at the same speed increases the risk of a crash.

Even when drivers are careful, truck driver negligence may be a factor in a crash. Although federal regulations limit a trucker’s workday to 11 hours per day, exhaustion often causes difficulty in paying adequate attention to the road. A motorist who pulls to the shoulder of the highway because of a mechanical problem is in danger from a truck driver drifting off the road because of distraction or fatigue.

The severity of motor vehicle crashes involving a commercial vehicle often leads to permanent disabilities and high medical costs. A personal injury attorney who has experience with the Illinois legal system can help victims and family members to receive due compensation.