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Lowry: Stay safe on the road in 2015

A truck that showed no sign of braking or maneuvering slammed into a bus carrying the North Texas State University softball team earlier this year in Oklahoma. Four women were killed in that collision.

Comedian Tracy Morgan is suing Wal-Mart for severe injuries he suffered after a deadly crash on the New Jersey Turnpike in the early morning of June 7, when his limo-bus was rear-ended by a truck driver employed by the mega-chain.

A report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) indicated that the driver of a Wal-Mart tractor-trailer was traveling at an excessive speed of 65 mph in a 45 mph zone. Police have said the driver hadn’t slept in the 24 hours before the crash.

The Oklahoma crash and the lawsuit filed by Morgan sparked a national conversation about commercial truck safety, particularly in light of the fact that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has identified driver fatigue as the biggest factor in commercial truck crashes. In fact, driver fatigue is thought to be responsible for roughly 30 percent of all commercial truck accidents in the United States.

One out of nine traffic fatalities result from a collision involving a large truck, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Because of their size, 18-wheelers are capable of tremendous devastation.

Each year, approximately 130,000 individuals are injured in various types of truck collisions. Nearly 90 percent of commercial truck accidents are caused or exacerbated by some sort of human error on the part of drivers, passengers, cyclists or pedestrians.

Unfortunately, many of these trucks are woefully underinsured for the amount of damage they cause. There is a movement in Congress to increase the minimum limits for commercial motor vehicles.

How can you keep your family safe on highways and interstates? Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re sharing the road with large trucks:

Be aware of blind spots.

Large trucks have blind spots, which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates are responsible for one-third of all accidents between cars and trucks. Remember that if you can’t see the driver’s face in the truck’s side mirror, chances are the driver can’t see you.

Use extra care when passing.

Give the truck even more space than you would allow other vehicles you normally pass. Make sure the front of the rig is visible in your rearview mirror before returning to the truck’s lane. The goal is to avoid putting the driver in a situation where sudden braking is required because 18-wheelers require significantly more time to decelerate and to come to a stop.

Exercise caution in inclement weather.

Large trucks can splash water, snow and mud onto other cars, which can affect your ability to see through the windshield. If you’re driving in inclement weather, give 18-wheelers plenty of room to maneuver.

Be mindful of trucks making left turns.

Truck drivers may need to swing wide to the left in order to make a right turn. Trying to squeeze directly behind or beside them could cause a collision. Wait to see where a truck intends to turn before making any move — and be sure to give it plenty of room.

Report unsafe drivers.

Be sure to report unsafe truck drivers to their company and to local authorities, if necessary.

According to the NTSB, large truck fatalities and injuries were on the decline for years, but those figures have reversed and steadily risen since 2009.

In response to this trend, the NTSB is studying various risk factors, such as driver fatigue, drug and alcohol testing of drivers, vehicle maintenance, equipment and the effectiveness of high-tech, collision-avoidance technology installed in 18-wheeler fleets across the country.

Keep your eyes open, whether you’re driving across the country or around Georgia. Stay safe on the road in the New Year!

 

Stephen G. Lowry is a partner with the law firm of Harris Penn Lowry LLP. He can be reached at steve@hpllegal.com or 912-651-9967.

 

 

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