Big rigs dominate America’s highways. Tractor trailers weigh, on average, 80,000 pounds and can be up to eighty feet long. Because of their immense size, it’s imperative for drivers to understand the dangers when driving behind or alongside them. Accidents are not uncommon and can cause severe injuries, requiring long hospital stays or even a visit to a tractor trailer injury attorney. Here are four major causes of big rig accidents and how to avoid them.

1. Driver fatigue

A study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that 12 percent of tractor trailer accidents happened due to driver “non-performance”. These issues included falling asleep behind the wheel or other physical impairments caused by driver fatigue. A tired driver may lose control of their truck. Keep an eye out for trucks that veer out of their lane and straddle lane dividers.

2. Blind spots

Larger trucks have larger blind spots, and it’s crucial for drivers of other cars to bear that in mind when following or passing. A tractor trailer driver who is signaling an intention to change lanes or make a turn should be given wide latitude. If not, a car could be pinned or crushed by the much larger vehicle. Other drivers must watch for turn signals and know their relative locations to the big rig’s turning zones.

3. Improperly loaded cargo

It’s critical for heavy loads to be secured properly on the trailer bed before departure. An improperly loaded trailer can swing wildly on the road, colliding with other traffic. Improperly secured cargo can even break free and fall onto other cars. Watch for cargo that is moving on the trailer or if the trailer itself is having difficulty staying in one lane. In the event of a wreck due to improperly loaded cargo, be sure to contact a tractor trailer injury attorney to discuss options.

4. Driving under the influence

As always, drivers under the influence of alcohol or narcotics don’t perform well. Alcohol and marijuana lead to increased sleepiness and decreased reaction times. Overworked drivers sometimes turn to amphetamines to stay awake. But amphetamines can also cause hallucinations and altered depth perceptions. Drivers under the influence behave similarly to fatigued drivers, and other drivers should watch for similar behaviors.

Driving alongside tractor trailers is a fact of life for all drivers. But by understanding the causes of truck accidents and how to avoid them, drivers should feel safe on America’s highways.

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