Drivers: Be Wary of 18 Wheelers

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It’s tragic how often we hear about highway fatalities due to the negligence of 18- wheelers.  The recent death of a young college student who was killed by heavy 18 wheeler tires which careened off the rig on the I-10 in Mississippi is a tragic illustration of how dangerous the enormous trucks can be. At Joseph Joy and Associates we were struck by the random nature of this accident. No one would ever imagine that two tires would fly off an 18 wheeler and travel 850 feet across the interstate to strike a woman and then continue rolling another 150 feet. The wheels weighed 1000 pounds  and killed the woman instantly.

It is a rare example of the kind of dangers posed by 18-wheelers, many of which can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and pose huge risks for unsuspecting passenger vehicles traveling nearby. The more common traffic accidents handled by Joseph Joy and Associates typically involve driver fatigue and negligence, poor vehicle maintenance, improper load weight and balance, failure to yield, speeding, etc.

As the lead federal government agency responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses including commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

Clearly, FMCSA has a lot of work to do. Deaths from large truck crashes reached their highest level in 29 years in 2017, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. Even worse, deaths from big truck crashes rose even though the overall traffic fatality rate declined.

The data is not trending in a positive direction. As personal injury attorneys representing clients injured by the negligence of vehicles and big 18 wheeler trucks, Joseph Joy and Associates is extremely concerned. Case in point:

  • In 2016, 4,440 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, a 2-percent increase from 2015. Although the number of large trucks and buses in fatal crashes has increased by 29 percent from its low of 3,432 in 2009, the 2016 number is still 15 percent lower than the 21st-century peak of 5,231 in 2005.
  • From 2015 to 2016, large truck and bus fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled by all motor vehicles increased by 1.9 percent, from 0.141 to 0.144.
  • There was a 34-percent decrease in the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses between 2005 and 2009, followed by an increase of 28 percent between 2009 and 2016.
  • From 2015 to 2016, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses increased by 6 percent.
  • The number of injury crashes involving large trucks or buses decreased steadily from 102,000 in 2002 to 60,000 in 2009 (a decline of 41 percent). Since then, it increased 62 percent to 97,000 in 2015.
  • In 2016, there were an estimated 119,000 injury crashes, based on NHTSA’s new CRSS data collection.
    On average, from 2006 to 2016, intercity buses accounted for 13 percent, and school buses and transit buses accounted for 40 percent and 34 percent, respectively, of all buses involved in fatal crashes.

From 2015 to 2016:

  • The number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes increased by 3 percent, from 4,074 to 4,213, and the large truck involvement rate (large trucks involved in fatal crashes per 100 million miles traveled by large trucks) remained constant at 1.46.
    The number of buses involved in fatal crashes decreased from 263 to 227, a decrease of 14 percent.

Large trucks and buses (commercial motor vehicles or CMVs) have large blind spots, long stopping distances and limited maneuverability that make it vital for other drivers to focus on safety. As drivers and vehicle operators, each one of us can be vigilant, drive defensively and heed these tips from FMCSA:

1. Stay out of the No Zones

Large trucks and buses have huge blind spots on all four sides. If you can’t see the driver in the vehicle side mirror, assume the driver can’t see you.

Don’t drive in a blind spot – slow down or move ahead to stay visible and take extra care when merging.

2. Pass Safely

Make sure you can see the driver in the vehicle mirror. Signal clearly then move into the left lane and accelerate so that you can get past the truck or bus safely and pass promptly. Don’t linger in the blind spot.

Make sure the truck or bus is visible in your rear view mirror before you pull in front; give it extra space.

Don’t pass trucks and buses on downgrades where they tend to pick up speed, and never pass from the right lane.

When a bus or truck is passing, stay to the right and slow down; give them extra space to change lanes or merge in from ramps.

3. Don’t Cut it Close

It’s especially dangerous to “cut off” a commercial bus or truck. If you move in quickly, you’ll likely be in a blind spot. Even if you’re visible, the vehicle may not be able to slow quickly to avoid a crash because of the amount of time it takes to stop.
Cutting in too close in front of another vehicle is always dangerous, but it’s especially dangerous to “cut off” a commercial bus or truck. If you move in quickly from either side, you’re likely to be in a blind spot so the driver may not see you in time. Even if you’re visible, the vehicle may not be able to slow quickly enough to avoid a crash because of the amount of time it takes to stop.

4. Stay Back

Tailgating a truck or bus puts you in a blind spot. Because trucks are high off the ground, your vehicle could slide (or get pushed) under a truck in a crash.

Stay back when stopped, particularly on an upgrade, where a bus or truck might roll back.

5. Anticipate Wide Turns

Buses and trucks need extra turning room, they swing wide or may start a turn from a middle lane.

Never try to squeeze by or get between a turning vehicle and the curb.

Never “block the box” at an intersection or stop in front of the line, so buses and trucks can turn safely.

6. Be Patient

Trucks and buses need time to accelerate and sometimes use technology like speed limiters.

Honking, driving aggressively, or weaving through traffic can cause dangerous distractions and crashes.

7. Buckle Up

Using a safety belt is one of the easiest and most important things you can do to save lives.

Make sure kids always ride in the back seat, buckled up or in car seats.

8. Stay Focused

If you need to attend to anything except driving, get off the road and stop.

Driving distracted is as dangerous as driving impaired.

9. Don’t Drive Fatigued

Take regular breaks, get another driver to relieve you, or get off the road and find a safe place to rest.

10. Never Drive Under the Influence

Alcohol and other drugs impair judgment and reaction time. There is no safe limit for drinking before driving.

Prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs may cause dizziness, sleepiness and/or slow reaction time. If your medication carries a warning, have someone else drive or use other transportation.


Call our legal team at Joseph Joy and Associates in Lafayette if you or a loved one is injured as a result of a negligent 18 wheeler operator.  give us a call: 337-232-8123 or visit us at 900 S. College Rd., Ste. 204, Lafayette, LA.


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