Truck Accidents

Left Turn Truck Accidents


Left Turn Truck Accidents are Preventable

Truck Companies often Restrict Drivers from Making Certain Left Turns

Left Turn and Crossing Truck Accidents Can be Prevented

Truck Drivers know these actions are dangerous

Left turn truck accidents are preventable because most left turns by tractor trailers should be avoided.  Turning left across multiple lanes of traffic are some of the most dangerous driving maneuvers that a tractor trailer driver faces. The training received for a CDL on left turns is far more involved than the training used to secure a regular driver’s license. Tractor trailers are long and slow. These large and slow vehicles take a much longer time to clear an intersection or cross a road than a small agile passenger car. Some types of trucks and trailers are difficult to see from the side by approaching motorists. This is particularly true at night. A left turning tractor trailer will block oncoming lanes of traffic with a trailer that might not be easy to see.

Left turn truck accidents at night often involve multiple mistakes by the tractor trailer driver and the trucking company.  Was the tractor trailer driver able to accurately assess how much time he had to complete a left turn by looking at approaching headlights?  Should the left turn been included in the route selected for the truck driver?  Was a pre-trip inspection completed to verify that the tractor trailer would be easily seen by approaching traffic? Pre-trip vehicle inspections are exceedingly important to make sure that all lights and reflective tape are operational and clean. Left turns are particularly dangerous at night when motorists may not readily appreciate that a flat bed trailer being pulled across a roadway is blocking their path. Motorists routinely see red and white stripped tape on the backs and sides of trucks. When properly used and maintained this is an important safety feature. Unfortunately, many truck drivers do not regularly clean the reflective tape. The effectiveness of dirty reflective tape is significantly decreased. Reflective tape is reflective and follows simple laws of physics. Headlights from a car will hit the reflective strips on the back of commercial trucks that the car is following. If that same truck decides to make U-turn the reflective tape will not always be perpendicular to approaching traffic. A flat bed trailer making a U-turn at night may be nearly invisible to approaching traffic because the reflective tape is reflecting the light from approaching headlights toward the side of the road as opposed to reflecting the light back.

Some turns can’t be Safely made with A Truck

Truck drivers must select a safe route.

Some legal turns may be unsafe for commercial vehicles. A commercial truck driver has a responsibility to identify safe routes to and from stops that are required. For example, many gas stations are located on busy roadways with intersections close to exits and entrances from the gas station. Commercial truck drivers make deliveries to these gas stations in long slow-moving tanker trucks. If the most direct route for the truck driver to take is a left turn from the gas station, is the truck driver permitted to take that left turn?  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act requires a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) recipient to demonstrate the ability properly position a truck to safely make left turns.  A CDL driver must also demonstrate the ability to choose a safe gap for crossing or entering traffic.  The purpose of these requirement is to help reduce or prevent truck and bus accidents, fatalities and injuries.

Whether a left turn for a truck is safe depends on whether the truck driver is making a turn with the benefit of a traffic light or whether the intersection is uncontrolled. If the driver determines that he can safely make and complete a left turn without interfering with cross traffic he may do so. A CDL driver is trained to look much further ahead for traffic than a car driver. This is particularly true when making a left turn.  A CDL driver must look far enough ahead to make sure that a left turn may be made safely.  Before making a left turn a truck driver should be able to see about 12-15 seconds ahead.  This is because it takes a tractor trailer about 7-15 seconds to complete a left-turn.  It may take more time for a tractor trailer pulling a heavy load that slows acceleration or one that is attempting to turn left across a large intersection. How far that distance is depends on the speed of traffic.   In a congested area where cars may be approaching from multiple different directions due to a busy intersection near the gas station exit the driver should identify a safe alternative route. If the left turn is to be performed at night the driver should make certain that his reflective tape is clean and any lights on the side of the vehicle are operational.

Tractor-trailer drivers are trained to make sure that the gap of approaching traffic is large enough for the tractor trailer to get all the way across before traffic reaches the vehicle.  A CDL driver is trained not to take a left turn if that maneuver will force approaching traffic to swerve or slow down to avoid a crash.  Tractor trailer drivers are instructed to assume that approaching drivers might not see their vehicles.  The left turn should not be started until there is enough time for the rear of the trailer to clear the intersection without forcing opposing drivers to slow down or swerve.

Route selection is the process that a commercial motor carrier and commercial truck driver takes to choose a safe route.  If a particular left turn cannot be made because it is impossible for the truck driver to see whether the driver has 12-15 seconds of time to complete the left-turn that left turn should be eliminated from the route.  Many commercial truck companies such as UPS make it a policy to select routes that eliminate as many left turns as possible.  The negligence in a left turn case can actually be based entirely on the decision to include the left turn in the selected route.  For the same reason we expect truck companies to select routes that bypass overpasses that are too low for a truck to clear we expect companies to select  routes that eliminate left-turns that cannot be safely made by those same trucks. 

Fact: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act considers an accident to be preventable “If a driver, who exercises normal judgment and foresight could have foreseen the possibility of the accident that in fact occurred and avoided it by taking steps within his/her control which would not have risked another kind of mishap, the accident was preventable.” Appendix B to Part 385.

Nighttime driving is dangerous

Turning trucks can be difficult to see at night.

It is not uncommon for motorists to not see a large truck at night. Fortunately, an experienced truck accident lawyer will be more open to why you failed to see a tractor trailer than your family members. It is one thing to miss a motorcycle, but an 80,000-pound truck is a much harder sell. There are certain circumstances where these enormous vehicles are difficult for approaching motorists to see. The following are some examples of night time truck accident and of left turn truck accidents:

  • An illegally parked truck that failed to place the required warning devices behind the truck and failed to keep the truck’s lights on. The geography of the roadway and condition of any reflective tape could render such a vehicle difficult to see in time to act.
  • A tractor trailer making a left turn across multiple travel lanes at night. The trailer was at an angle when it was crossing the road and the reflective strips on the side of the trailer reflected the light to the side of the road. The trailer was relatively tall so the driver in the small car could see the taillights of cars ahead while looking under the trailer. At night this created an illusion that the nearest traffic in the driver’s lane was well past the truck.
  • A left turning tractor trailer with dirty reflective tape on the side of the trailer. The approaching driver did not notice the cab of the truck because it had already crossed the road. The tractor trailer had to stop for a car slowing to turn right leaving the trailer across two lanes of approaching traffic. Even though the reflective tape is perpendicular to the approaching driver the tapes is not reflecting because it is covered in dirt and is old. The red lights on the end of the trailer are outside to the approaching car’s travel lane and are not perceived as being part of a larger vehicle.
  • A rollback tow truck stops on the inner loop of the beltway and is almost entirely stopped within a narrow shoulder. The tow trucks lights are on and it is night time. The rear corner lights are about 6-12 inches from the outer edge of the steel flatbed. A car driving in the left lane is unable to change lanes due to heavy traffic and the front corner of his car is clipped by the unlit edge of the steel flat bed.

These examples are not uncommon types of left turn truck accidents. The federal government has incorporated required training for commercial truck drivers to avoid predictable types of accidents. These standards may be found in CDL manuals, the federal motor carrier safety regulations, company handbooks, accident preventability manuals and other industry materials. Certain companies that operate certain types of commercial vehicles are required to have safety directors. These individuals are supposed to know all these rules and to make sure that their drivers also know these rules.  A safety director should make certain that their dtractor trailer drivers know how to safely make a left-turn and that the company chooses routes that minimize or eliminate the left turn truck accidents.

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Client injured by a Commercial Motor Vehicle

Truck drivers that are at risk for losing their jobs due to a driving error often fail to take responsibility. The failure to take responsibility invariably leads a wrongfully injured person’s claim being denied.

George Patterson, Truck Accident Lawyer

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George Patterson is a Board-Certified Truck Accident Lawyer by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. This certification is recognized by the American Bar Association.

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