Avoiding Dangerous Tractor-Trailer Accidents in Arizona
By Zachary Mushkatel on January 25, 2016
Whether you heading north on I-17 or cruising along on I-10, the odds are that you will be sharing the road with numerous tractor-trailers. Unfortunately, when the number of tractor-trailers on the roads increases, so does one’s risk of getting into a car accident involving a truck.
According to a report by the Arizona Department of Transportation (DOT), large commercial trucks were involved in nearly 12,000 traffic collisions in our state last year, or about five point six percent (5.6%) of the total number of crashes on the road.
As the DOT report indicates, a particularly high number of these crashes involving tractor-trailers resulted in fatalities. Consider the following statistic: Out of those trucking accidents reported in Arizona, more than two percent (2%) were fatal.
Although that number might not sound particularly high, the figure is disproportionally high when we compare it to fatal accidents involving passenger cars. In passenger car crashes, only about three tenths of a percent (0.3%) of all reported crashes in Arizona proved fatal.
Clearly, a tractor-trailer collision is more likely to be fatal than a collision involving smaller motor vehicles.
Other large trucks on the road, including but not limited to concrete mixer trucks, dump trucks, garbage trucks, and tanker trucks, resulted in more than four hundred (400) accidents during the same time period.
When we look at all truck combinations and their prevalence in crashes, the DOT report indicates that large truck combinations were involved in eight thousand five hundred and fourteen (8,514) accidents in 2014, or more than four percent (4%) of the reported total in Arizona.
Why Do Semi-Truck Accidents Happen in Arizona?
Truck drivers are trained professionals. They must have a special commercial driver’s license (CDL) in order to operate their big rigs on the road. The large majority of these drivers are safe and skilled drivers who are good at what they do for a living.
The problem lies with those semi-truck drivers who lack certification, training, skills and – unfortunately – sound judgment. They can be a danger to themselves and everyone else they encounter on the road.
Some examples of dangerous behavior that can lead to trucking accidents include:
- Speeding and aggressive driving – Whether it is a matter of habit or due to the need to make a delivery deadline, some truck drivers can speed, tailgate, make dangerous passes or refuse to yield to others when they should.
- Impaired driving – Operating a semi-truck while impaired by alcohol is so dangerous that the legal blood alcohol concentration limit for truckers is actually set at 0.04 – compared to 0.08 for other drivers. The use of illegal or prescription drugs can also lead to crashes.
- Distracted driving – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) actually bans the use of hand-held cell phones by truck drivers. When a trucker is distracted by cell phone use – talking or texting – it can greatly raise the trucker’s risk of getting into an accident. Other distractions include reading maps, eating and drinking and – believe it or not – trying to watch TV or use a computer while behind the wheel.
- Drowsy driving – The majority of truckers must follow the FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations, which are aimed at ensuring they limit their hours on the road and get needed rest. The bad news is that some trucking companies allow their drivers to routinely violate these rules, which increases the risk of a fatigue-related truck accident.
As we said, you should feel confident that most tractor-trailer drivers that you encounter on the roads in Phoenix and elsewhere in Arizona are responsible professionals. However, all it takes is one brush with a careless or reckless trucker, and life for you and your family could be changed forever.
Top 2 Ways to Avoid a Collision with a Semi Truck in Arizona
How can you avoid being in a deadly truck accident?
Above all, it is very important for you to share the road responsibly with semi-truck drivers. In particular, we encourage you to focus on these two things you can do while driving on the interstate or anywhere else where you are likely to encounter large commercial motor vehicles:
- Pay attention – Be aware when a large truck is driving near you. Avoid distractions and forms of aggressive driving yourself.
- Stay out of no zones – What is a “no zone”? According to a DOT fact sheet, it is an area in which a truck driver cannot see around the vehicle. No zones exist at the front, rear and sides of tractor-trailers. You can avoid no zones by making sure to:
- Avoid a truck’s blind spots
- Leave plenty of passing space
- Never drive alongside a large truck
- Never draft or tailgate
- Leave at least three seconds of following distance
- Leave at least one car length behind a truck for every 10 miles per hour you are traveling
- Never cut in front of a truck and slow down
- Leave enough room for a truck to turn safely, as trucks make much wider turns than passenger vehicles.
Remember: You can’t control what a truck driver does. However, you can control your own decisions and actions on the road and do your best to avoid a collision with a tractor-trailer.
Get Help from a Phoenix Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorney
If you or someone you love has sustained injuries in a serious tractor-trailer collision, it is important to seek advice from an experienced Phoenix truck accident attorney. If you would like to discuss your case and learn more about your legal rights and options after an accident, please contact us today. We would be glad to provide you with a free consultation.
Zachary Mushkatel is an Arizona native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004. After serving as a public defender, he entered into private practice and, ultimately, joined forces with Mathis Becker to form the law firm known today as Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. In addition to criminal law, Mushkatel practices civil litigation, with a focus on estate litigation and personal injury cases. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Lodge, and he is an executive officer and member of the Board of Directors for the West Maricopa County Bar Association.