A head-on truck collision can occur in the blink of an eye. Big trucks take up a huge amount of space on the road and, as a result, can drift out of their assigned lane without warning, making it difficult for other drivers to avoid them.
Do you know what to do after a head-on truck collision? What should you expect in the aftermath? What causes head-on truck collisions, and how can you avoid them?
What Causes Head-On Truck Collisions?
Big trucks, which can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, need more space to maneuver than smaller passenger vehicles. Not only do they take up more space in their assigned lanes, they can also more easily drift out of the path they should follow—and when they do drift, they may take more effort to bring back in line. Often, even drivers who realize they may have made an error struggle to bring the truck back on its assigned path before an accident occurs.
Most of the time, head-on collisions occur due to driver error. They may occur due to:
A distracted driver, especially a distracted truck driver, can pose a substantial hazard to everyone who shares the road with him. Because of the large amount of time they spend behind the wheel each day, as well as tight deadlines and the need to keep driving even when road fog sets in or when they need to perform other actions, truck drivers may suffer from a higher risk of distracted driving than other drivers.
Distracted driving does not necessarily have to mean a truck driver using his phone. Distraction can also occur due to:
- Eating or drinking behind the wheel
- Checking the GPS
- Adjusting the music or air conditioning
Many truck drivers may also zone out, making it difficult for them to pay attention to the road around them.
Truck drivers, because of the long hours they spend away from home and the long hours and isolation associated with their jobs, frequently drink while off the clock. Unfortunately, drinking can also affect them during the hours they spend behind the wheel. Intoxicated truck drivers, whether they drink and drive deliberately or have not yet shaken off their inebriation before a shift, can have a higher rate of accidents, including head-on collisions.
Drunkenness impairs motor control, increasing the likelihood that a driver will drift out of the proper lane and struggle to bring the vehicle back. It can also impair decision-making and executive function, increasing the odds that a driver will, for example, drive the wrong way down a one-way street.
Driving While Tired
Truck drivers often put in long hours with tight deadlines. They may feel pressed to drive even as exhaustion creeps in. Unfortunately, tired drivers may make many of the same errors as drunk drivers. Falling asleep behind the wheel can also cause the big truck to drift out of its assigned lane, increasing the risks of a head-on collision.
Ignoring the Rules of the Road
Some truck drivers decide to ignore the rules of the road to get to their destinations faster. This risk may increase as they reach the ends of their shifts, feeling the pressure to meet the day’s deadlines. Drivers may choose to speed through red lights and stop signs, which can increase the risks of many types of accidents, including head-on collisions. Speeding may also raise the risk of a truck driver leaving his assigned lane and causing a head-on collision.
Altered Traffic Patterns
Many truck drivers regularly drive the same route. They become familiar with the traffic patterns, the streets, and the flow of traffic through a specific area. Construction, other accidents, or changes to those patterns, however, can make it difficult to safely navigate the area, especially if the information has not yet reached GPS devices. As a result, the odds of an accident may increase when traffic patterns change.
Poor Weather Conditions
In poor weather conditions, including rainy weather or snow, it can prove more difficult to control any vehicle. Big truck drivers may face even more challenges controlling their vehicles. Ice or water on the road can cause the tires to slip or the vehicle to pull out of control, which can cause the truck driver to cross the center line and result in a head-on collision.
Decreasing Your Risk of a Head-On Truck Collision
You can’t prevent some accidents, especially if a truck driver drifts out of his or her lane unexpectedly. You can, however, take several steps to help keep yourself and passengers in your vehicle safer, reducing your odds of an accident and helping you navigate more successfully.
1. Keep your vehicle away from the centerline.
Instead of hugging the centerline, which can increase the risk of a head-on collision, try to allow yourself plenty of space on the road. Keep track of the location of the centerline, and ensure adequate space between you and any oncoming traffic or obstacles.
2. Pay attention to your surroundings while driving.
If you pay attention to your surroundings, you can significantly reduce your risk of a serious accident by simply getting your vehicle out of the way when a truck driver loses control or fails to pay attention. Prepare yourself to swerve onto the shoulder if you notice another vehicle, especially a big truck, starting to cross the centerline. You may need to practice getting out of the way or look for alternate routes you can take if you notice a driver starting to swerve across the centerline.
3. Drive in the right lane, when possible.
If you need to navigate in tight traffic on a multi-lane road, try to drive in the right lane, not the left lane or the lane closest to oncoming traffic. By keeping your car in the right lane, you provide yourself with more room to maneuver and make it easier to take the steps needed to avoid an accident.
4. Turn on your headlights to warn drivers of your presence, especially in dim lighting or in bad weather.
In bad weather or at night, you should always turn your headlights on to make it easier for other drivers to see you. If you notice another driver, especially a truck driver, drifting into your lane, turning on your headlights can provide an additional warning of your presence, which can help get other drivers back in their lanes. A tap of the horn can also warn truck drivers that they have drifted out of their assigned lane and that they need to pay more attention to things happening around them.
What Should You Do After a Head-On Truck Collision?
A head-on truck collision often leaves the victims with serious injuries. In many cases, especially at high rates of speed, it can lead to lifelong injuries or even death. Victims may have to live with traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries, and amputations, all of which can cause lifelong complications. The actions you take immediately after a head-on collision and in the weeks and months that follow can make it easier for you to protect your health and your finances after an accident.
1. Call 911 immediately.
Truck accidents, especially head-on collisions, usually mean serious injuries for the victims. Make sure you call 911 immediately. This single call will summon both the police and an ambulance to the scene. The dispatcher can provide you with more advice about what to do immediately after the accident, including helping you stay calm.
2. Avoid moving around the scene if you suffered a serious injury.
If you know you suffered a serious injury, especially if you lost consciousness, do not move around the scene of the accident. A head-on collision can cause substantial damage to both your vehicle and your body. Moving around unnecessarily can worsen that damage, especially in the immediate aftermath of the accident.
If you believe that you suffered a serious injury, stay put in your vehicle. Unless emergency medical personnel move you to a hospital, do not leave the scene of the accident before speaking with the police. Leaving the scene can bring you criminal consequences.
3. Only gather evidence if you can safely move around the accident scene.
Sometimes, photographic evidence from the accident scene can make it easier for you to prove that the truck driver caused your head-on collision. You may also benefit from witness statements. However, you do not want to do anything that could worsen your injuries.
If you can safely gather evidence, collect:
- A photo of the truck driver’s license and registration
- A photo of the truck’s license plate
- Photos of your injuries
- Photos of the positioning of the two vehicles
- A photo of the truck, especially if it displays information about who the truck driver drives for
4. Give an accurate statement of events to the police without accepting any liability.
Let the police know what contributed to the accident, including anything specific you noticed, like the truck driver struggling to control his vehicle or swerving into your lane of traffic. Try not to make any statements the police officer or truck driver could view as accepting responsibility for the accident. Some people mistakenly accept partial or even full liability for an accident by apologizing or attempting to minimize the circumstances that led to the accident or trying to alleviate guilt in the other driver.
5. Seek medical attention promptly.
If you know that you suffered a serious injury at the time of the accident, proceed directly to the emergency room or an urgent care facility immediately. Follow all instructions given to you by first responders and emergency medical personnel. Prompt medical care can make a major difference in the overall treatment of your injuries, including helping you better make a full recovery later.
Going to the emergency room or an urgent care center will also provide a chain of evidence that will help establish exactly when your accident took place, which can prove helpful when you go to file a truck accident claim.
6. Create a record of what happened during the accident.
As soon after the accident as possible, create a written or recorded record of the events that led to the accident. Memories often fade quickly, especially after a traumatic event like a severe accident. Recording those details promptly can increase the accuracy of your report.
7. Call your insurance companies.
Notify both your auto insurance company, who may provide PIP insurance that will help cover your initial medical expenses, and your health insurance provider about your accident and what led to it. Ask any questions you have about your coverage, especially questions about your copays, deductibles, and other financial expenses you may experience as you deal with the aftermath of your accident. Better yet, expedite the process and avoid any unpleasant surprises by routing any communication with an insurer through a trusted car accident attorney.
8. Get in touch with an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible.
While you have until the statute of limitations runs out to file a truck accident claim, you should nonetheless start working with an attorney as soon after the accident as possible. Not only can an attorney negotiate a settlement offer that reflects the full compensation you deserve after a head-on truck collision, that attorney can also help investigate the accident and determine all parties that may have contributed to the accident.
After a truck accident, for example, you may have the right to file a claim against the truck driver’s company or another entity, especially if the trucking company insisted on too-tight deadlines, failed to maintain the vehicle, or employed a driver known to cause accidents.