You’re sitting at a stoplight, staring at the car ahead of you, when you notice lights approaching in your rear-view mirror. You feel like they’re getting closer far faster than they should be, and the vehicle is huge: An 80,000-pound semitruck.
Then you hear the screech of the brakes as the truck driver sees the stopped traffic and tries to slow down. You can’t go anywhere, with the cars all around you, so you just watch those lights growing in the mirror, all the way until impact.
The next day, lying in a hospital bed, you wonder why that truck did not stop in time. How long can it really take to slow a vehicle like that down in an emergency?
Though every situation is different and comes with a lot of variables, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says that trucks need “almost two football fields” to come to a halt. That’s around 600 feet. The FMCSA also notes that “the stopping time and distance for a truck or bus are much greater than those of smaller vehicles.”
Six hundred feet is an incredible amount of distance on a crowded highway. That driver may have locked the brakes up when he or she spotted you, but, if the truck was within that 600 feet, it may not prevent the accident.
Of course, it does slow the truck and can, therefore, limit the severity of the crash, but any crash with a vehicle that large could cause significant injuries.
In addition, you have to take roadway variables into account. The 600-feet rule is for a truck going at the speed limit, on good roads, under optimal conditions. Important questions to ask include:
- Has it been raining or is it actively raining at the time?
- How long as it been since the truck’s brakes got serviced?
- What is the exact weight of the truck?
- How fast is the driver really going at the time the brakes get applied?
- How old is the road surface? What is it made out of?
- How fast is the driver’s reaction time? How much time goes by from the moment the driver sees the hazard to the moment he or she presses on the brakes?
- Are there any other weather conditions to worry about? Fog is a big concern, and it actually snowed in San Antonio just last year.
- Is the driver in complete control of the vehicle?
- Is other traffic completely stopped or just moving slowly?
All of these variables can have a drastic impact on the severity of the wreck.
If you do suffer injuries in a semi-truck accident, it is very important to understand all of the options you have moving forward.