Sudden lane shifts and unexpected road debris pose challenges for any motorist maneuvering through roadway work zones. However, such challenges are immeasurably more difficult when behind the wheel of a big rig.
Every motorist on the road affects everyone’s safety. To best maintain control, it is essential to obey all work zone laws — and understand the special considerations faced by truckers in these areas.
Why Trucks are More Prone to Work Zone Accidents
According to the Federal Highway Administration, almost 30 percent of all crashes in roadway work zones involve large trucks. The number of fatalities from these accidents continues to increase, with over 1,000 fatalities and 18,000 injuries occurring in recent years. Semi-tractor trailer trucks are at greater risk than smaller passenger vehicles for a number of reasons, including the following:
• Increased stopping distance: Any driver must stop suddenly for road debris or after a vehicle in front of him or her comes to a quick stop. However, smaller vehicles can stop much more quickly than a big truck. Even at reduced speeds, being rear-ended by a truck can result in severe injuries or even fatalities.
• Reduced steering control: A sudden lane change can be challenging for passenger car drivers. Truck drivers pulling one or more trailers cannot always make this type of maneuver safely. As cargo shifts and trailers swing, they can hit nearby vehicles or even jackknife.
• Tire blowouts: Anyone who has ever seen blown tire parts on the road can imagine that they become dangerous missiles at the time of the incident. Sharp road debris increases the likelihood of blown tires in work zone areas.
How to Drive Defensively Around Trucks in Work Zones
Knowing the risks that trucks face in work zones provides other drivers with an important first step in taking defensive driving measures that can help reduce the risk. The best protective action is to maintain the largest possible distance from the front, back and sides of a truck.
Adding extra space can be challenging, particularly in the confined spaces within work zones. It might even mean that drivers are a few minutes late for an appointment because they were stuck behind a truck for a mile or two.
Nevertheless, always remember that a quick hands-free phone call can extend the appointment time, while a trip to the emergency room brings an abrupt halt to any planned event.
2014 Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus Statistics, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Other Blog Topics:
Construction Zones are Dangerous for Motorists and Workers, Tuscaloosa Trucking Accidents blog