Rear-end collisions are the most common type of vehicle accident out there. Semi truck drivers constantly need to be on their toes when driving through highly populated areas or busy roads. Growing impatience with drivers leads to speeding, distracted driving, and defensive driving. In 2019, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that, “the large trucks were struck in the rear almost 4 times more often than the other vehicles (23% and 6%, respectively)”. So, it’s important to know what causes these crashes and how to prevent them.
FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO REAR-END ACCIDENTS
The Great West Casualty Company say that rear-end crashes can be traced back to three primary things: the environment that it occurred, the equipment involved, and the personal behaviors of the drivers in the vehicles. These three things are the main causes for any type of accident, but according to the NHTSA , rear-end crashes are the most common type of collision, making up roughly 29% (nearly 1/3) of all crashes in 2017.
Many things outside of the tractor and trailer itself can cause issues. Things like fog and sun glare can reduce visibility, and wet or dry roads can affect tire traction and braking. The place and weather that you are driving through can all be contributing factors into a rear-end collision.
Secondly is the equipment. Insufficient tread depth on tires or unadjusted brakes can affect stopping distance. The height and type of load you are hauling can also cause other types of accidents. It is vital that drivers inspect the inside and outside of their tractors and trailer before and after each trip. Making this a common routine could potentially save yours and others lives.
Lastly is the behavior and habits of the drivers. Speeding, distracted driving, and unsafe driving maneuvers like tailgating are other reasons for rear-end collisions. Driving while ill, fatigued, or under the influence are other issues with personal behaviors that can endanger lives. Human error is the most common contributor to any type of vehicle accident, so doing everything you can to minimize this will help you and others on the road.
HOW TO AVOID REAR-END COLLISIONS
FIRST AND FOREMOST, MAINTAIN A SAFE FOLLOWING DISTANCE.
As a truck driver, your following distance is further than the average motor vehicle. For every vehicle, the braking distance is related to the speed at which you are traveling. But, with a larger and heavier load, the faster you are going, the slower it will take for you to brake completely. So, what is a safe following distance you ask? Keeping a minimum of 6 seconds between you and the driver ahead of you. The way to measure this is by picking a point ahead of you and by counting ‘one-thousand one, one-thousand two, one-thousand three…’ and so on till you get to 6 seconds. That should be the amount of time and distance away from the car in front of you to be safe. Another thing to mention, add another second to your distance with every potential hazard that is present (such as weather conditions, road conditions, etc.).
KEEP THE SPEED BELOW THE SPEED LIMIT.
Your speed plays a big role in the braking and reaction time. A good rule to follow is to keep the speed that you are traveling 2-3 miles per hour under the speed limit. A good following distance is helpful, but if you are traveling at higher speeds, your reaction time is slower.
BE ATTENTIVE WHILE DRIVING.
Hopefully this is what drivers do every time they go behind the wheel, but we are all human. If you are starting to feel fatigued, pull over or off until you can regain your focus to drive again. But, driver fatigue is not always the issue. Distracted driving by drivers in both vehicles can come into play when talking about rear-end collisions.
Let’s say you’re traveling down the interstate going 60 mph. In five seconds of looking at your phone or another thing inside the cab, you will have traveled 88 feet. That’s 88 feet of blind driving. Six seconds of following time doesn’t give enough time to look away from the road, and mirror checks by the driver should only take about 1 second. The thing to do is put away all distractions, stay alert when on the road, and be prepared for anything that you may encounter.
REACT PROPERLY TO EACH SITUATION.
This is something you learn in training. Traffic is different depending on the weather, time of day, and so on. Drivers hauling large vehicles should always be prepared for unexpected traffic and weather conditions. At the first sign that the road ahead of you is getting jammed up, lay off the power and on to the brakes. Be prepared to stop if necessary, like in evening rush hour traffic. When things start to get busy, stay in one lane to avoid any chance of drivers performing abrupt lane changes, or sharp stops.
LASTLY, ALWAYS INSPECT YOUR VEHICLE.
Performing this easy and essential vehicle inspection could make the difference in keeping all drivers safe on the road. A vehicle inspection means checking everywhere on your tractor and trailer to ensure that everything is in working order and no repairs or adjustments need to be done before you get on the road again.
Knowing how to keep yourself and other drivers safe while on the road is always a top priority. Staying aware of your surroundings, reducing your speed, and inspecting your truck and trailer regularly are all great ways to prevent rear-end collisions. Accidents happen everyday, but they don’t have to happen to you.