Texans — Austinites in particular — are at an unfortunately high risk for accidents with commercial vehicles. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Lone Star State ranks as one of the top 10 states for fatal commercial vehicle accidents. In 2018 alone, there were over 37,500 reported crashes involving commercial vehicles in our state, and of these accidents, 1,271 occurred in Travis, Williamson, and Hays counties.
While it’s not always possible to avoid an accident with a large commercial truck, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself on the road. How you drive — and what routes you take — can lower your chances of a serious commercial vehicle accident. Here are our recommendations for safer travel.
Take Back Roads when Possible
One way to limit your exposure to commercial vehicles is to travel on back roads when possible. Commercial truck drivers are often paid per mile and are under intense pressure to meet tight delivery schedules. Because of this, they’re incentivized to get to their final destination as quickly as possible, meaning they’ll usually opt for major roads and highways with high speed limits and few stoplights.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 85 percent of commercial vehicle accidents occur on heavily traveled roads, freeways, and highways. Therefore, if you’re trying to avoid one of these dangerous collisions, it’s best to opt for alternative routes on smaller, quieter roads. In Austin specifically, you’ll want to stay off of I-35 when possible, since it’s been named one of the deadliest highways in the country.
Give Large Trucks Plenty of Room
Following too closely behind a commercial vehicle can also be quite dangerous. Trucks have large blind spots in front, behind, and beside them, so if you are tailgating, the driver may not be able to see your vehicle. Additionally, your visibility will be limited, so you may not be able to detect oncoming traffic, lights, and other obstacles.
Use Caution when Passing
The same rule applies when passing a commercial vehicle. Due to its heavy weight, a truck takes much longer to slow or stop than a passenger vehicle. Specifically, a truck going 65 mph requires about 525 feet to come to a complete stop, compared to 316 feet for the average passenger vehicle. Therefore, you should always make sure there is ample room in front of the truck before you move back into its lane.
Trucks also have less visibility on their passenger side, so you should always pass on the left side. That will help you avoid accidents not only with trucks but with any other vehicle.
Anticipate Turning Distance
In Texas, there are no length restrictions placed on semi trucks — and these trucks usually average between 70 to 80 feet long. This means they have a much wider turning radius: typically about 55 feet. Meanwhile, the average lane is only about 24 feet wide, which means trucks can easily spill into the next lane when turning.
If you know that a truck is about to make a turn in the lane next to you, try not to drive directly beside them to leave plenty of room.
Practice Defensive Driving
Safe driving practices will help you avoid accidents with any vehicle on the road — and can keep you from getting ticketed too. Best practice is to abide by these rules:
- Avoid distracted driving
- Obey speed limits
- Do not drive when you are sleep-deprived, after drinking alcohol, or when otherwise impaired
- Always be alert and keep your eyes on the road
- Adhere to all state and federal traffic laws
Not all semi truck accidents are preventable, of course. If you are the victim of a serious truck accident, it’s wise to at least consult with a commercial vehicle accident lawyer who can help you determine your options in your case. At FVF, our Austin truck accident lawyers have helped hundreds of victims defend their rights and explore their options in commercial vehicle accidents. Contact our office today for a free consultation.