Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
Merging and Lane Changes – Are Truckers Paying Attention?
There are many different reasons for serious and even deadly truck accidents. One common factor in many of these incidents is poor merging or dangerous lane changes. Since operating these large vehicles is more challenging than driving a car, operators need to be alert and safe when making lane changes. Yet truck accident attorneys who see the aftermath of lane change accidents frequently question whether some of these drivers are really being attentive.
Merging And Lane Changing Accident Statistics
Tractor trailers are involved in thousands of truck accidents on U.S. roadways every year. In its most recent report on commercial truck and bus crashes, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported that trucks were involved in 4,311 fatal crashesin 2015 alone, a number that rose by 8 percent from the previous year.1
A significant percentage of crashes involved poor merging or dangerous lane changing. When tractor trailers drive into the path of smaller vehicles alongside them, the results can be deadly.
Why Do These Accidents Happen?
Truck accident attorneys find that there are a number of reasons why these type of crashes occur.2 Following are two of the most common and interrelated causes:
- Driver Distraction or Inattention - Driver distraction is a big factor in merging and lane change accidents and a major cause of all types of truck accidents. Operators who are fatigued, focusing on electronics in their cabin, or distracted in some other way can easily change lanes without realizing there are vehicles beside them and in their path.
- Poor Visibility of Other Vehicles - Tractor trailers have four large blind spots around them; two of these spots are on the sides of the truck. When other vehicles drive in these areas, truck drivers who need to merge or make a lane change may not always see them. A driver’s failure to see other vehicles in their blind spot could result from distraction or the smaller vehicle continuing to drive alongside the tractor tailer undetected. In either case, the truck driver must check for vehicles in their blind spots before merging or changing lanes.
Using Proper Merging Techniques
Because of a tractor trailer's difficulty to safely merge or change lanes, truck accident attorneys stress that it is essential for truck operators to exercise extreme caution when changing lanes. Big rig drivers must be alert, signal early, and pay attention to other traffic around them before entering the highway or changing lanes.
Car drivers near a truck must also leave plenty of room, stay out of a truck's blind spots, and watch for any signals that a truck is going to merge or change lanes. Although these are dangerous maneuvers a tractor trailer operator must perform, they can be done safely when done properly.
Truck accident attorneys stress that while all drivers must be aware of trucks changing lanes or merging, big rig operators must drive responsibly and remain alert to the traffic around them. With good observation and by taking ample time to signal and look for traffic emerging from blind spots, operators can reduce the chance of causing truck accidents!
2U.S. DOT, NHTSA Analysis of Lane Change Crashes, March 2003