Inadequate Lighting – Can It Cause Semi Truck Accidents?

Poor visibility contributes to a large number of semi truck accidents that occur on our nation’s highways every year. Besides headlights, federal safety law states that large vehicles must have a variety of visible lights so others can identify them. Despite these laws, semi truck accident attorneys know that many trucks function without required lights and reflectors that reduces their visibility to others and causes accidents.

Federal Regulations on Truck Lights

Many truck drivers prefer to drive at night because there is usually less traffic on the highways at that time. Driving at night does not mean big rigs are the only vehicles on the road, so adequate lights are essential. Federal law states that besides working headlights, tail lights, and brake lights, tractor trailers must also have functional running lights along the top and bottom of the trailer. In addition, these trucks must also have reflectors in certain areas to further increase visibility at night or whenever visibility could be impaired, such as in fog.

Poor Visibility Contributes to Accidents

When trucks are operated without required lights and reflectors,it is more difficult to see them on the highway. Although these are certainly large, visible vehicles under most conditions, even large vehicles can seemingly disappear at a distance when running lights and reflectors are not used.

It is a fact that drivers are three times more likely to be involved in an accident at night versus during the day.1 This makes the ability to actually see large trucks a prime factor for reducing semi truck accidents occurring at night due to poor visibility.

Trucks that lack working brake lights or required reflector tapes are more likely to be involved in an accident with a passenger vehicle because of this reduced visibility.  

Keeping Trucks Safe with Proper Lighting

The lights on tractor trailers are generally the responsibility of first the driver and second the truck owner. When the lights are not functioning properly, drivers must report this and arrange for necessary repairs to restore function. Instead, many drivers unknowingly head to the roads with improperly functioning lights because of tight schedules and/or a lack of time to detect non-working lights.

Semi truck accident attorneys suggest that all drivers should be aware of the federal lighting and reflector requirements that apply to their vehicles. Drivers should inspect their trucks daily to ensure all lights are working and reflectors intact. Based on an NHTSA effectiveness study, reflector tapes alone can account for up to a 44 percent reduction in accidents involving passenger vehicles and tractor trailers.2 This study strongly associates how a lack of visibility can attribute to semi truck accidents, especially at night.

As large as they may be, tractor trailers can easily blend in with the background at night and during low visibility conditions. Semi truck accident attorneys know this lack of visibility creates a significant risk to other vehicles on the road. All tractor trailers should be operated with working lights including trailer running lights and required reflectors to prevent semi truck accidents. Big rigs always need to provide as much visibility as possible!

1NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts: Passenger Vehicle Occupant Fatalities by Day and Night - A Contrast, May 2007
2NHTSA Technical Reports: The Effectiveness of Retroreflective Tape Effectiveness on Heavy Trailers, March 2001


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