a curve in a dark road only lit by headlights

Truck AccidentsNight Time Truck Accidents

Night time truck accidents and the FMCSA

Night time accidents involving trucks is an enormous problem with many rules and regulations designed to prevent these accidents.

Commercial Driver Training Manuals Dedicate A Chapter To Night DrivingNight driving is dangerous due to poor visibility, glare, fatigue, limited headlight range and defective or inadequate lights and reflectors

Every commercial vehicle driver is required by federal law to be trained to avoid accidents associated with night time driving. Commercial truck drivers are required to conduct pre-trip inspections to make certain that their trucks and trailers do not have any defects that would limit or impair the visibility of the truck or trailer to other drivers. They are trained to factor in the speed they are traveling, the stopping distance of their trucks and the distance that their headlights illuminate with high beams on and with the low beams on. Truck drivers are supposed to plan their route and to make sure that they are sufficiently well rested before starting a trip.

Many night time truck accidents can be prevented if commercial drivers and their motor carriers complied with these regulations before embarking on a night time trip. It is critical that a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer is involved in the investigation of a night time truck accident as soon as possible. Records relating to driver fatigue and vehicle inspections must be preserved. There is also significant information about the vehicles involved that may be lost forever if a lawyer is not consulted promptly after a crash.

Headlights IlluminationHeadlights do not provide enough illumination for highway driving

Commercial truck drivers must avoid outpacing their headlights. The time and distance it takes to bring a commercial truck to a stop involves detecting the need to stop (being able to see an item in the roadway), identifying the need to stop (recognizing the object as a hazard), deciding to stop (the phase when a driver evaluates whether to stop or change lanes) and then responding to the need to stop (the time it takes for the brain to trigger a physical response). Driver fatigue slows this process.

There are some hazards that may be visible independently of illumination from headlights. A truck traveling 60 miles per hour will often require over 350 feet to stop. At 50 miles per hour it will still take about 250 feet to bring the same truck to a stop.

Low beam standard headlights will illuminate 250 feet while standard high beam lights will illuminate between 350 to 500 feet. High intensity xenon beams can illuminate 600 to 800 feet. According to CDL manuals it takes a tractor trailer 784 feet to stop from a speed of 70 miles per hour. It should be noted that a tractor trailer traveling with its low beams will be unable to stop within the distance of illumination at speeds over 35 miles per hour. The applicable stopping distances are 237 feet at 35 miles per hour, 430 feet at 50 miles per hour and 512 feet at 55 miles per hour. If the geography of the highway is considered the distance of illumination can drop to dangerously short distances. This is another reason why the driver’s familiarity with a route is critical to analyzing night time truck accidents.

Many truck companies prohibit their drivers from making U-turns, particularly at night due to the visibility problems created by this maneuver for approaching drivers.

Trucks Must Be Visible To Other Driver’s At NightReflective strips, and lights must be clean and operational

A common night time crash involves a car driver striking a commercial truck at night. These crashes often are the result of the trailer not being visible to the approaching vehicle. After such an accident it is critical to obtain photographs of the trailer and truck after the crash. The red and white reflective stripes on the side and rear of trailers must be clean. If this reflective tape is dirty and can be significantly less reflective. Also, the reflective tape reflects in the same way that a mirror reflects. If a large trailer is crossing a road at an angle the reflective tape will be ineffective at warning approaching motorists.

A pre-trip inspection is required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act and part of that inspection involves checking lights as well as the condition of the reflective tapes. The pre-trip inspection also requires the driver to make certain that 3 warning triangles are readily accessible to be placed behind the truck in case of an emergency or stopping on the side of the road.

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The number of parking spaces for commercial trucks at rest stops and truck stops is insufficient for number of trucks on the road. This results in trucks parking in dangerous locations at night.

George Patterson

Advocate Member Of The Academy Of Truck Accident Attorneys

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