In less than a month, two multi-vehicle crashes involving tractor-trailers on Interstate 16 killed 10 individuals, including five Georgia Southern University nursing students and two teenagers from the Claxton area.
With tractor-trailers traveling at high speeds — and local traffic sometimes starting and stopping without notice — coastal Georgia interstates have become increasingly dangerous for drivers and passengers alike.
This situation is expected to get worse, not better, according to local law enforcement.
“Our area is one of the largest epicenters of trucking in the entire southeast United States,” said Pooler Police Chief Mark Revenew, who has extensive experience investigating truck crashes in Chatham County. “The phenomenal growth experienced by the ports and the countless national distribution centers located within our region make truck traffic part of our daily life.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that one out of every nine traffic fatalities results from a collision involving a large truck. Each year, approximately 130,000 individuals in the U.S. are injured in various types of trucking collisions.
“Their sheer size alone and the large, often hazardous cargo material that they transport through our already congested roads make them
inherently dangerous,” Revenew said. “Couple that with I-95, one the one of the busiest interstate highways, piercing through our communities and never-ending traffic and you have a dangerous recipe.”
Most truckers drive without incident, but some lack training, equipment, rest or maintenance, making drivers and trucks more likely to be involved in a crash.
How can you keep your loved ones safe on highways and interstates? Here are a few tips to consider:
Practice defensive driving. Take a proactive approach, always keeping a watchful eye on traffic patterns, the behavior of other drivers and sudden changes that can affect your rate of speed. Remember that tractor-trailers cannot stop as quickly or maneuver as easily as a car, so be sure to allow plenty of space between your vehicle and the nearest tractor-trailer.
Pay attention behind the wheel. Distracted drivers are dangerous drivers and are significantly more likely to cause a crash. Remember that safe driving is all about paying attention, so remove any distractions such as cellphones or food.
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 a truck’s side mirror, chances are the driver can’t see you.
Use extra care when passing. Give trucks 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 big trucks require significantly more time to decelerate and to come to a full stop.
If you do get in a crash, stay alert and maintain control of the vehicle as much as possible to steer safely off the road. Often, motorists leave their vehicles in the lane of travel, despite state law that directs them to move their vehicles from the roadway.
Avoid secondary impacts, which can be just as dangerous as primary collisions, and are typically caused by inattentive or curious motorists driving by the scene of an accident.
Remain calm, cooperate with first responders and seek immediate medical attention.
If you’re involved in a crash caused by a tractor-trailer, it’s important to get an attorney working on your behalf as soon as possible because trucking companies aggressively defend themselves when a driver is involved in a collision, including sending their own representatives and investigators to the scene of the crash.
Protect yourself and your loved ones by seeking strong legal representation following any serious crash on area roadways.
Stephen G. Lowry is a partner with the law firm of Harris Penn Lowry LLP. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-651-9967.