I’ve written extensively on the chief menace of 18-wheelers at night—drowsy driving—including how federal law tries to protect you from tired truckers.
While it can seem as if big-rig drivers know nothing about keeping others safe on the road at night, they actually have no excuse. The South Carolina Commercial Driver’s License Manual warns about the perils of night driving, so the handlers of these road mammoths know what it takes to protect you. But the manual warns truckers of other factors so they can avoid a tragedy.
Driver Factors Besides Fatigue
The first thing the manual tells truckers about driving at night is: it’s more dangerous. Drivers can’t see hazards as fast, crushing response time. And drivers caught by surprise are less likely to avoid crashes.
Other factors here include:
- Vision. It’s critical for safe driving, day and night. The starting point for avoiding accidents is sight. Without good vision, truckers can’t see traffic or road conditions, or anticipate potential hazards. Bad vision keeps truckers from responding in time.
- Glare. Bright light can be blinding. The manual points out just two seconds of glare blindness lends itself to a terrible accident, as a 60,000 pound 18-wheeler going 55 mph can go more than half the distance of a football field in that time—with a functionally blind driver.
The main concern here is lighting. The chief culprit: low light. Truckers just can’t see hazards as well as in the day. They’ve got to be especially aware of pedestrians, which includes walkers, joggers, and bicyclists.
The second culprit is too much light. The manual warns truckers they can be overwhelmed by lights from signs, stores, and other lights—such as lights from other vehicles. This can create confusion, and confusion is danger. It can keep a large truck driver from seeing traffic signals and hazards.
This is a key reason why federally required pre-trip inspections save lives.
- Headlights are critical, but they aren’t as effective as the sun. Headlights are the trucker’s main light source, especially on those lonely, dark country highways. The manual warns they are no substitute for daylight. Low beams allow about 250 feet of vision, and high beams 350 to 500 feet. The manual warns truckers to respect this limitation, reducing speed to allow stopping distance to remain within their limited sight. Read the stunning truth on just how long it takes to stop a monster truck.
- Keep lights clean and working. To keep the road lit and approaching traffic warned, headlights must be clean. Dirty headlights give out only half the light. The same applies to all other lights to warn innocent motorists, including trailer reflectors, markers, clearance lights, and especially tail lights and brake lights.
- Clean windshield and mirrors. Dirty windshields and mirrors create glare, even at night.
If You’re a Victim, Get Legal Help
Speeding truckers with faulty equipment make a recipe for a disaster. If you suspect a tractor-trailer crash resulted from unsafe night driving—or any other cause—you owe it to yourself and your family to seek legal help from an experienced professional. The trucker and trucking company will have professionals on their side who are determined to settle cheaply, because that’s how they keep costs down and profits high. If you don’t have a lawyer in this situation, it’s a battle of professionals versus an amateur. You just can’t expect that to turn out the way it should.
If you have questions about your case, feel free to look at other articles on our site, including our trucking page. You can also email or live chat right where you are, and you’re always welcome to call one of our lawyers or schedule an appointment with one to answer your questions and talk about your rights.