October 3, 2016

Posted: October 3, 2016 |

Orange County Truck Accident Attorneys Discuss Dangers of Tractor-Trailers Executing U-Turns

The unique physical characteristics of an 18-wheeler render certain driving maneuvers that would be considered routine in a passenger car as almost too dangerous to attempt in most situations. Large commercial trucks can have a gross vehicle weight of up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded and operating on the interstate highway system. Their length can reach 65 or 75 feet depending on the trailer connection.  Given the massive weight and length of these vehicles, U-turns typically cannot be executed without creating a high risk of a collision.

Orange County Tractor-Trailer Lawyer Explains Why U-Turns by Tractor-Trailers Are Unsafe

When tractor-trailer combinations are engaged in a U-turn, they essentially function as a long fence that can span the entire width of a highway.  The vehicles can be difficult for approaching cars to distinguish from the roadway.  When a large truck executes a U-turn, some Internet sources estimate the maneuver can take up to a half minute to execute.  Further, the highway might be blocked in both directions for a significant portion of this time.  If the truck driver struggles when performing a U-turn because of the limited width of the roadway, an even longer period might be required to complete the maneuver.  The limited conspicuity (visibility) of large commercial trucks is compounded by other factors that limit visibility, such as darkness, sun glare, or fog.

Although trucks executing U-turns pose a danger to all other people using the public roadways, these maneuvers constitute an even greater risk when executed at night.  Frequently, passenger car drivers cannot see a tractor-trailer executing a U-turn in the dark until two seconds before encountering the big-rig.  The lack of visibility creates an increased risk, especially if the truck and trailer have not been equipped with proper markings.

Because of these dangers, state law, federal regulations, and trucking industry practices establish safety standards to mitigate the risk.  Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations dictate minimum conspicuity requirements for trucking companies and large trucks engaged in interstate trucking (i.e. trucking across state lines).  The regulations set forth specifications regarding the location and extent of lighting and sheeting, or reflective tape on the sides of the trailer running from the front to the rear of the vehicle.  The reflective tape or sheeting must also include more than a single color.  

Some U-turn trucking accidents sometimes occur because commercial drivers fail to observe these regulations.  Further, these regulations establish only minimum safety standards, which means trucking companies can be liable when they fail to implement stricter safety precautions.  Driver manuals of many commercial carriers with well-established safety programs forbid their drivers from performing U-turns under any circumstances.  Other trucking companies prohibit such turns on public highways.

Large Truck Override and Underride Accidents Especially Dangerous

Commercial drivers can be responsible for causing a tractor-trailer crash when they fail to comply with company safety policies.  Alternatively, many commercial carriers fail to implement or enforce proper supervision, training, and management practices.  These types of negligence can result in passenger vehicles traveling under a trailer in the process of executing a U-turn.  This type of accident, which is referred to as an “override” or “underride” tractor-trailer crash, constitute one of the most deadly types of trucking accidents.  Tractor-trailers are much higher off the ground and larger than standard-size passenger vehicles, so passenger cars and SUVs can become entrapped under a big-rig.

Passenger vehicles travel under the trailer causing the roof of a car to be ripped from the vehicle or collapsed into the passenger compartment.  Truck override and underride accidents often result in roof crush injuries, decapitations, and other catastrophic or fatal injuries.  The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly fifty percent of all fatal trucking collisions with passenger cars are underride trucking accidents.  While the destruction of the passenger compartment constitutes a significant danger of causing catastrophic injury, underride and override accidents also occur at the head level of occupants in the passenger vehicle.

If your or a family member suffers a serious injury in a tractor-trailer override or underride accident while a truck is executing an unsafe U-turn, you might have a right to compensation.  Damages that might be recoverable include but are not limited to the following: medical expenses, pain and suffering, disfigurement, physical impairment, lost wages, mental anguish, diminished earning capacity, and other losses depending on the circumstances.

If you suffer a significant injury, or a loved one dies in a tractor-trailer crash anywhere in Orange County or throughout California, our California tractor-trailer accident lawyers provide effective representation of personal injury victims.  Our lawyers at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie offer a free consultation so call us at 949-752-7474 to schedule your free consultation today.