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Misjudging Stopping Distance is a Leading Cause of Truck Accidents in Maryland

It’s a common but frightening driving scenario: the vehicle in front of you suddenly stops, forcing you to slam on the brakes in order to avoid a collision. Fortunately, you come to a halt just before striking the vehicle ahead, because you left plenty of space between your vehicles. Stopping distance is a crucial factor in auto accidents, capable of turning a survivable crash into a deadly collision. Due to their length and weight – up to 80,000 pounds, under federal law – commercial trucks like 18-wheelers require more stopping distance than other vehicles. If a truck driver fails to leave adequate stopping distance between his or her truck and other vehicles on the road, the outcome can be disastrous. Our Baltimore truck accident lawyers take a closer look at the role stopping distance plays when semi-trailers crash.

Maryland Semi-Trailer Accident Statistics

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), heavy truck accidents accounted for 48 of the 550 traffic fatalities that occurred in Maryland during 2017, or about 8.7%. This number was a slight decrease from the previous year, when large truck accidents claimed 63 lives in Maryland.

Fatal crashes were more likely to occur in certain counties than others. According to NHTSA data, in 2017 Maryland counties with the highest fatality rates from truck accidents included Queen Anne County (6.03 deaths per 100,000 population), Somerset County (3.86 deaths per 100,000 population), Washington County (2.66 deaths per 100,000 population), Carroll County (2.38 deaths per 100,000 population), and Frederick County (1.98 deaths per 100,000 population).

Fatality rates were lower in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, likely because trucking routes generally take truckers through rural and less congested areas. The fatality rate in Baltimore County was 0.96 deaths per 100,000 population, with an even lower rate of 0.49 deaths per 100,000 population in Baltimore City.

How Much Distance Does a Truck Need to Stop?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) specifically highlights stopping distance as a potential hazard to be aware of when driving a truck or driving near a truck. According to the FMCSA, “A fully loaded truck traveling in good road conditions at highway speeds needs a distance of nearly two football fields to stop” – equivalent to more than 700 feet. By “highway speeds,” the FMCSA means an average speed of 65 miles per hour.

To reduce the risk of accidents, commercial truck drivers should constantly scan the horizon ahead, sweeping “for traffic issues, work zones, and other dangers.” The FMCSA recommends looking approximately one quarter of a mile, equivalent to about 15 seconds, into the distance. By following this rule, truck drivers can better avoid collisions with the vehicles ahead.

When Should You Increase Your Following Distance While Driving?

As the FMCSA cautions, tractor-trailers require plenty of stopping distance even in optimum driving conditions. If conditions are anything less than perfect, trucks require even more distance to brake safely. The same is true for other vehicles. When driving in poor weather, or around dangerous or erratic drivers, all motorists should increase stopping distance to give themselves an additional “cushion” in the event of a sudden emergency. Some common reasons why drivers might need to increase their braking distance include:

  • Distracted Truckers – Like other drivers, truckers are susceptible to distractions like text messages, apps and games, food, radio stations, and other hazards.
  • Fatigued Truckers – Truckers are often pressured to complete long-haul interstate trips without getting adequate sleep or rest. Sometimes truckers or trucking companies violate federal regulations that control driver hours and shifts.
  • Inclement Weather – Fog, rain, snow, sleet, and hail are dangerous for drivers, making the roads slick while reducing visibility.
  • Intoxicated Truckers – It is illegal – and extremely dangerous – to drive under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, or other controlled substances.
  • Road Construction or Defects – Potholes and other road defects demand slow and cautious driving. It is also critical to slow down in construction zones, which can be confusing to navigate, both for worker safety and to avoid collisions with other vehicles.
  • Speeding Truckers – Truckers sometimes speed in an effort to complete their routes faster. Unfortunately, speeding is a major factor in all types of traffic accidents. While any type of crash can cause injury, serious injuries and fatalities are more likely in high-speed collisions.

Baltimore Truck Accident Injury Lawyers Can Help

Accidents become more likely when truckers fail to leave enough stopping distance between themselves and other vehicles. If you were injured in a collision with a negligent truck driver, the commercial trucking accident attorneys of Bennett & Heyman, P.A. can help. With over 70 years of combined legal experience, our dedicated injury lawyers are here to pursue compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages. To set up a free legal consultation with our Baltimore semi-truck accident lawyers, contact Bennett & Heyman online, or call our law offices at (410) 429-7856.

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