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LOWRY: Be vigilant, stay safe on area interstates

  • Stephen G. Lowry

Local motorists traveling Interstate 16 and Interstate 95 have good reason to be concerned about highway safety.

In June 2016, five people died in a two-car crash on I-16 westbound near Savannah. That incident occurred along the same stretch of highway as a May 2015 pileup that killed five people and approximately 20 miles from the site of the April 2015 crash that killed five Georgia Southern University nursing students.

In recent years, fatal accidents have also been on the rise on I-95 in Georgia as roadways become increasingly crowded with cars and trucks. A recent Auto Insurance Center study, which analyzed the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), named I-95 the second most dangerous highway in the United States, edged out only by Interstate 10.

Part of what makes I-16 and I-95 so hazardous in Georgia is the heavy tractor-trailer traffic. In fact, one out of nine traffic fatalities in the United States result from a collision involving a large truck, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Because of their size, tractor-trailers are capable of tremendous devastation.

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

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

• Keep your eyes on the road. Pay close attention to the actions of drivers around you, so you can react, if necessary. Never text and drive. Remember that driving while drowsy can also be dangerous. If you feel sleepy at the wheel, pull over and get some rest before driving on the highway or interstate.

• 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 cannot see the driver’s face in the truck’s side mirror, chances are the driver cannot see you.

• Use extra care when passing. Give large trucks even more space than you would allow other vehicles you normally pass. Make sure the front of the rig is visible in your rear-view mirror before returning to the truck’s lane. The goal is to avoid putting the truck driver in a situation where sudden braking is required, since tractor-trailers require significantly more time to decelerate and to come to a full stop.

• Watch your speed. Drivers can help reduce the chances of getting in a collision on the interstate by obeying posted speed limits. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Remember that speeding can be dangerous and deadly.

• Exercise caution in inclement weather. In a heavy rain storm, large trucks can splash water onto other cars, which can affect your ability to see through the windshield. If you are driving in inclement weather, give 18-wheelers plenty of room to maneuver. Tractor-trailers are required to slow down in inclement weather. However, many drivers do not follow this requirement.

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

• Before hiring any attorney in a truck collision case, be sure to ask about his or her experience handling large truck cases and actually trying those cases to verdict. Consult with an attorney who specializes in trucking personal injury and wrongful death cases in order to determine the best course of action.Stay safe driving on highways and interstates this season.

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

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