How Can I Avoid a Devastating Truck Accident This Winter?

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Snow, ice, and freezing rain cause roadways to become extremely hazardous during the winter months. In fact, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), over 20 percent of the roughly 5,748,000 car accidents that occur in the United States each year are weather related. This results in an average of 5,376 fatalities each year. Although all motorists are urged to use extreme caution when driving during inclement winter weather, this is particularly important for commercial truck drivers who must maintain control of a massive tractor-trailer on roads that may be slick with rain or covered with ice or snow. If a commercial truck driver loses control of his or her truck because of rain, snow, sleet, fog, or other weather-related hazards, this can cause a devastating truck accident. Unfortunately, it is often the occupants of the passenger vehicles involved in the accident who suffer the most catastrophic personal injury. However, by making safety a top priority at all times and following these important safety tips, you can avoid a weather-related truck accident.

What Are the Top Causes of Winter Truck Accidents?

In general, there is an increased risk for car accidents when the weather causes hazardous road conditions. However, when a massive truck is involved, the property damage and injuries tend to be much more severe. The following are some of the most common causes of wintertime truck accidents:

  • Driving too fast for the conditions of the road
  • Road hazards
  • Poor visibility
  • Distracted driving
  • Drowsy driving
  • Mechanical issues
  • Increased traffic

What Are the Top Winter Weather Safety Tips for Avoiding a Truck Accident?

When the temperatures drop and the sun starts to set earlier, you should use extra caution when driving. In fact, if inclement weather is in the forecast, it is highly recommended that you avoid driving if possible. However, if you must drive, be prepared for potentially dangerous road conditions and take proactive steps to avoid a serious accident, including those that involve a massive commercial truck. The following are examples of safety tips you should keep in mind when sharing the road with a large truck during the winter months:

  • Be aware of a truck’s blind spots. Larger vehicles have larger blind spots. That means that a commercial truck has larger blind spots than a regular passenger vehicle. Motorists should avoid driving in a truck’s blind spots, also referred to as the No Zones, which are the areas directly in front of the truck, directly behind the truck for approximately 200 feet, and on both sides of the truck; however, the right-side blind spot is larger than the left side. A good rule to follow is if you cannot see the truck driver in their side mirror, assume that they cannot see you. 
  • Never cut off a truck driver. Large commercial trucks require significantly more road space to slow down or come to a complete stop compared with passenger vehicles. That means that if you switch lanes directly in front of a truck, the truck driver may not be able to slow down in time to avoid rear-ending you, particularly if you switch lanes and slam your brakes. This can cause a serious multi-vehicle collision.
  • Always yield to a large truck. If you are driving in the vicinity of a large truck and the truck driver is attempting to change lanes, you may be tempted to speed up and pass the truck so that you are not stuck behind the massive, slower moving vehicle. However, this is extremely dangerous, particularly when the roads are slick with ice, snow, or freezing rain. 
  • Do not drive between two semi-trucks. There are a number of reasons why you should avoid getting stuck driving between two massive trucks on a busy highway. First, you are vulnerable to the truck’s large blind spots, and if one of the trucks does not see you and starts to change lanes, you may not be able to slow down or get out of the truck’s way. It also puts the truck driver in a position of having to slam the brakes to avoid hitting you, which can increase the risk of a serious jackknife accident. When the weather causes hazardous road conditions, the risk of a devastating accident is even higher.
  • Do not drive near the truck’s axles. During the winter, there is an increased risk of a tire blowout accident if the tires on a car or truck are worn or they are not properly inflated. A truck’s axles are located by the wheels, and if the truck has a blown tire, this can be extremely dangerous if you are anywhere in the vicinity of the truck. When passing a large truck, make sure that you pass the vehicle as quickly and safely as possible so that you are not driving next to the tires.
  • Use extra caution when driving on windy roads. Extreme wind can create very dangerous conditions if you are driving near a large commercial truck. Large trucks have a much bigger surface area and have a different weight distribution compared with smaller vehicles. That means that a major gust of wind can cause a truck to drift into another lane or off the road. Therefore, if you find yourself in the vicinity of a large truck during windy conditions, put as much space between you and the truck as possible.  

What Safe Winter Driving Tips Should Truck Drivers Follow?

Winter weather presents a range of unique driving hazards that increase the risk of a serious accident, including a truck accident. All truck drivers are urged to use extra caution when driving during the winter, and keep the following safety tips in mind at all times:

  • Check the weather report. If a winter storm is in the forecast, truck drivers’ safety should be a top priority. Truck companies should urge drivers to stay off the roads until conditions are safer to drive. If drivers are expected to make their deliveries, they should use extreme caution and take the necessary safety precautions. In addition, they should have a contingency plan in place in case weather conditions become dangerous.
  • Slow down. Truck drivers must leave plenty of room between their truck and the vehicle in front of them. In addition, they should leave at least 200 feet between the truck and a snowplow.
  • Avoid sudden braking. Hitting the brakes suddenly can cause the truck to start skidding, making it very difficult to maintain control of the truck. 
  • Use caution when approaching curves or intersections. Even when driving at slower speeds, a truck can start to skid when a truck driver approaches a curve in the road. 
  • Be careful on bridges. When the temperature approaches freezing, bridges and overpasses freeze before roads. This can be extremely dangerous if a truck approaches a bridge or overpass going too fast for the road conditions.
  • Clear snow and ice from the top of the truck. When snow and ice collect on the top of the truck, this can be extremely dangerous if a sheet of ice flies off the truck and hits another vehicle in the vicinity. Truck drivers should also clear any snow and ice that collects on the mirrors and windshield, as this will impact visibility.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full. In addition to ensuring that the truck does not run out of gas, this will keep the fuel lines from freezing.
  • Do not let the truck idle. Commercial trucks use diesel fuel, and the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank freezes at approximately 10 degrees. Therefore, it is important that truck drivers begin driving immediately so that the heaters warm the DEF and circulate it throughout the engine. 
  • Understand the symptoms of cold-related stress. Extreme cold can cause drowsiness, confusion, and slowed breathing. If truck drivers experience any of these symptoms, they should pull over immediately and seek medical attention.
  • Know how to handle a skid. If the truck starts to skid, always turn into the direction that the truck is skidding. Truck drivers should depress the clutch and look at the left mirror. They should continue to steer and counter-steer as fast as they can until they are able to regain control of the truck.
  • Keep an emergency kit in the truck. This should include blankets, extra warm clothing and socks, bottled water, non-perishable food items, a flashlight with extra batteries, and a portable cell phone charger. 

Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Weather-Related Truck Accidents

If you or someone you love was seriously injured in a truck accident during the winter months, you are urged to contact the Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. We understand how devastating these accidents can be, particularly when the weather causes unsafe driving conditions. Our dedicated legal team will work closely with you to determine who is responsible for causing the accident and ensure that you receive the financial compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.