Winter weather in Pennsylvania can be brutal with an average of 38 inches of snow annually. While the snow may be welcomed by skiers and winter enthusiasts, it can quickly create dangerous and hazardous situations for travelers. Blizzards, ice storms, high winds, sleet, and slush reduce pavement friction and vehicle maneuverability, making driving difficult and increasing the risk of a car accident and personal injury.
Winter accidents with tractor trailers are even more dangerous. Even in ideal weather, tractor trailer drivers need to be extra cautious, as large trucks and semis are difficult to maneuver. During the winter months, drivers need to take extra care to arrive at their destinations safely while traveling in potentially hazardous conditions.
- Causes of Winter Tractor Trailer Accidents
- Common Types of Winter Truck Accidents
- Safety Tips for Avoiding Winter Accidents with Tractor Trailers
Causes of Winter Tractor Trailer Accidents
Winter weather can increase the risk for personal injury accidents. In fact, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approximately 22% of the 6 million vehicular accidents in the United States each year are weather-related. Of these accidents, nearly 6,000 people are killed and another 445,000 are injured. There are several common causes of winter tractor trailer accidents including:
- Driving too fast for the weather: On a clear day with dry roads, a fully loaded semi-truck going 60 mph will need around 370 feet – more than the length of a football field – to come to a complete stop within 6 seconds. When roads are wet, snow covered or icy, stopping a large tractor trailer takes even more time and distance. Driver speeds in poor weather should decline by 30 to 40 percent. When drivers are going too fast, they can cause an accident by not being able to stop safely.
- Changing lanes too quickly: Driving through snow, even a light snow, decreases visibility for all drivers. When a truck driver decides to quickly change lanes on a highway or freeway, other drivers near the truck may not have adequate time to react and accommodate the lane change and result in an accident.
- Improperly loaded cargo: When cargo is improperly loaded into a semi-truck or tractor trailer, it can cause the vehicle to become unbalanced. A top-heavy truck can roll over when the driver loses control, especially on snowy, icy roads.
- Novice drivers: Newer truck drivers or drivers who have not had the proper training make may poor judgement calls when trying to drive on snow-covered or icy roads. The recent abnormal winter weather in Dallas, Texas shows just how difficult driving can be for those not familiar with winter driving. Six people died and dozens were injured in a 133-vehicle pile-up on icy roads.
Common Types of Winter Truck Accidents
Maneuvering a large commercial truck can become challenging in snowy, icy conditions. Because of the size and weight of a tractor trailer, the types of accidents that occur often result in more than a fender bender or a small dent to the other vehicle involved. The types of accidents that involve a tractor trailer are more severe and dangerous. If a tractor trailer loses control, the most common types of accidents are:
- Jackknife: A jackknife occurs when the cab of a truck starts moving at a different speed or a different direction than the trailer. This is usually caused by sudden braking and is more likely to occur when the trailer is empty or doesn’t have much cargo. When a driver brakes on snow covered roads, the cab may slow down, however the trailer may continue at the same rate of speed and cause a jackknife to occur.
- Rear-end collision: Rear end collisions are common in bad weather, especially when a tractor trailer needs to stop quickly to avoid stalled or stuck vehicles in a snowstorm. If a driver is going too fast for road conditions, the risk of a rear-end collision increases.
- Underride: Underride accidents are serious and can cause severe injury or even death. Underride accidents occur when a passenger vehicle skids or slides underneath the truck bed. Underride accidents are common in large multi-vehicle accidents and can be devastating for all involved.
- Rollover: Trucks that lose control on icy roads can rollover and cause multi-vehicle accidents. Rollovers occur when a truck’s wheels lose contact with the road. The risk of a rollover increases on hazardous roadways, especially on turns.
Safety Tips for Avoiding Winter Accidents with Tractor Trailers
With more than 41,000 linear miles of roadway in Pennsylvania, it is no surprise we see so many tractor trailers on our highways. Unfortunately, this brings with it a large number of accidents. If you must travel during winter weather, there are several things to do to arrive at your destination safely and avoid accidents with tractor trailers including:
- Keep your distance: During poor weather conditions, it is critical to keep at least 20-30 car lengths between you and a tractor trailer. This space allows the driver of a tractor trailer to see you in their mirrors and gives you ample space to stop or avoid a collision.
- Stay out of blind spots: Large commercial trucks like tractor trailers have several “blind spots” due to the extended trailers attached to the cab. The blind spot areas are located behind the truck, the sides of the trailer, and the point where the cab and the trailer are connected. If you can’t see the driver’s face in the side mirror, they cannot see you. Avoid this area when driving, especially in bad weather where visibility is decreased.
- Use your signals: Turn signals help all drivers around you understand your intentions when changing lanes or exiting a highway. In poor conditions, turn signals are a critical tool to reduce your risk of an accident.
Driving in the snow and ice is never easy, but by being extra attentive and cautious, you can reduce the risk of an accident and avoid injury to yourself or other drivers. Be respectful of tractor trailer drivers and their challenges in hazardous road conditions so you can both stay safe on the roads.
Injured After a Winter Accident with a Tractor Trailer? Call Georgelis First!
If you’ve been injured after an accident this winter with a tractor trailer, contact Lancaster’s TOP Injury Law Firm today at 1-800-HURT-NOW. An accident with a commercial vehicle can cause injury, lost wages, a pile-up of medical bills, and pain and suffering… and you have the right to fair compensation. Although there are thousands of accidents each year, every car accident personal injury lawsuit is unique, and the circumstances surrounding the accident are all contributing factors when deciding if you have a case.
Our experienced and successful personal injury attorneys have helped countless car accident victims get the compensation they deserve. In fact, we have won more than 99% of our cases and recovered more than $60,000,000.00 for our clients. Let us help you get the attention you deserve.
Our personal injury lawyers are available 24/7 and will come to you for a free consultation. We can visit you at the hospital, at your home, at your office, or even conduct a consultation through video conferencing. You’ve been through enough – let us come to you. We never collect a fee unless we get money for you. Contact us today and we’ll handle everything from there – we are here to help!