Texas Personal Injury Law Blog

Harris County Leads the State in Commercial Motor Vehicle Accidents

Two 18 wheelers

If you watch the local news or drive on the highways running through and around Houston, it may seem that there’s a commercial truck accident every day. Some of these accidents are spectacular and highly visible, as when a big rig flipped off of an overpass on Highway 59 in January, landing upside down on top of a car. Others are notable mainly for the inconvenience they cause, like the multi-truck accident that shut down eastbound I-10 for hours on January 25.

However, most of those commercial trucking accidents go entirely unnoticed. In 2016, Harris County averaged just over 15 commercial motor vehicle accidents per day. That’s a total of 5,628 crashes in a single year, accounting for 16.5% of all commercial motor vehicle accidents in Texas. Dallas County comes in a distant second, with 3,882 crashes in 2016.

Harris County also had the largest number of fatal crashes in 2016—27 crashes resulting in 30 casualties—and the most incapacitating injuries associated with commercial motor vehicle accidents. While there’s little to be done about the inconvenience caused when multiple lanes of traffic shut down for a truck accident clean-up, there are steps you can take to make sharing the road with large commercial vehicles safer for you, your passengers, and other vehicles on the road.

Safely Sharing the Road with Big Rigs and Other Commercial Vehicles

Large trucks and other commercial vehicles are naturally more dangerous than small passenger vehicles in many ways. Yet, data presented in the Large Truck Crash Causation Study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that the car is responsible for the critical cause of the accident in 44% of car-truck crashes.
These tips will help ensure that you don’t trigger a commercial truck accident, and help you avoid a collision if a truck driver makes a mistake or equipment fails.

  1. Give semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles plenty of space. They can’t maneuver as easily as a smaller vehicle and take much longer to stop. In addition, maintaining a safe distance helps protect you if materials break loose from the truck, the vehicle experiences a blow-out, or a semi jackknifes.
  2. Avoid the vehicle’s blind spots. Commercial motor vehicles have more and larger blind spots than the typical passenger vehicle. When the car is close in front of the cab of a large truck, directly behind it in closer proximity, or alongside the truck on the right, the smaller vehicle may be invisible. The safest option is to avoid any position that “boxes” the truck, ensuring that the driver has a clear view of your car.
  3. Take precautions when merging or changing lanes. Since commercial vehicles are slower to react than smaller vehicles, it is important to signal lane changes and to avoid cutting into traffic directly in front of a truck. Make sure that you are a safe distance ahead of the truck and then signal before moving into the truck’s lane.
  4. Make sure to dim your brights. A commercial driver sitting far up in the cab of a truck may seem out of range of your brights, but his or her mirrors are directed toward traffic. That means the person operating a large truck can just as easily be blinded by bright lights as the driver of a passenger car—but, with less ability to react quickly.
  5. Be aware that trucks take more space to turn. Staying in your lane isn’t necessarily sufficient to avoid a collision when a truck is turning, and if you are close to the vehicle when it begins its turn, the driver may not even be aware that you are there. Allow extra space for trucks that are preparing to turn.
  6. Take extra precautions under dangerous weather conditions. Of course, all of the ordinary risks are aggravated when roads are slippery, or when visibility is poor. There’s an added danger, as well. Spray and splashing caused by large vehicles in the rain can blind the driver of a smaller vehicle, making it all the more important to maintain a safe distance in bad weather.

With an average of 469 commercial motor vehicle accidents taking place on Harris County roads each month, the last thing you want to do is increase the risk. Be alert for large vehicles on the road and exercise care to protect yourself and others on the road.

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Paul Cannon

Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.