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Eyes in Back of Their Heads: To Keep You Safe, Truckers Must Look Out for You Even If They Can’t See You

It’s shocking but true: according to the 2015 South Carolina Commercial Driver License Manual, a major cause of 18-wheeler crashes is truckers not looking properly for other motorists. This is especially stunning to victims, since truckers are not only professional drivers, but they ride higher than any other vehicles, enjoying a bird’s-eye view that should allow the best possible view of traffic conditions.

That same manual tells truckers it’s very important to know what traffic is doing on all sides of the tractor-trailer. When you consider the effort the manual requires truckers to expend in looking out for other drivers, not seeing you becomes inexcusable.

Why aren’t big-rig truckers doing their duty to protect others from their enormous vehicles?

Looking Ahead

Truckers should look ahead 12 to 15 seconds. At low speed, that’s about a block. On the highway, it’s about a quarter-mile. But they can’t ignore what’s right in front of them: they must constantly shift their attention from far to near.

The manual even advises truckers to slow down for a green light that’s been on a long time, since it’s probably about to change.

Looking to the Sides

Disaster lurks beside a big rig. These are a couple of ways truckers should guard against it:

  • Proper side-view mirror adjustment. This is vital to preventing semi-trailer wrecks. Mirrors should be inspected before and during each trip. While driving, the trucker must regularly check for traffic on each side. One failure to check a mirror (or a misadjusted mirror that doesn’t give a clear field of view) could mean a big rig ends up grinding you to a smoldering pulp on the guardrail.
  • Blind spots. 18-wheelers are notorious for their “blind spots” where mirrors cannot show nearby traffic. To prevent tragic accidents, truckers need to be alert to traffic around them, knowing it could drift into a blind spot. And they’ve got to be especially careful about the blindest spot of all: behind them.

Looking Behind

This is where truckers and elementary school teachers are alike: they need eyes in back of their heads. On the road, truck drivers must be mindful of traffic behind their vehicles and always be diligent in letting other drivers know their intentions. This is especially critical in three situations:

  • Slowing down. To warn traffic behind them, truckers should lightly tap the brake pedal. Otherwise, following cars might slam into the trailer due to an unexpected sharp stop.
  • Tight turns. Tuckers should brake early and slow gradually to warn other motorists of a slow, tight turn. This prevents the potential for a lethal “undercarriage” crash, where a car slams underneath the trailer.
  • No directing traffic. Truckers should not urge faster traffic to pass them. The reason: it causes deadly crashes.

When a Trucker Doesn’t Look Out for You, You Need Someone Who Will

The tragedy of 18-wheeler accidents is that they often cause life-changing injuries and severe financial hardship for victims. But getting the fair recovery you deserve can be made extremely difficult by hardnosed trucking insurance companies. You’ll likely need an experienced 18-wheeler crash attorney to help you protect your rights and recover compensation. For more information about traffic crashes in general, download our FREE report about these cases, which includes a chapter about tractor-trailer crashes. And check out the other articles on our site, just some of which are listed below.

 

Rob Usry
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Rob is a South Carolina personal injury and criminal defense lawyer.

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