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I-65 And Semi-Trucks Have Been a Bad Combination This Winter

Jason Reese

Synopsis

  • Indiana’s winter driving season has two common accomplices for increasing your accident risk this year: 1) Interstate 65 and 2) the semi-truck trailer.
  • Indiana State Police have been reporting dozens of crashes on the busy interstate, some caused by a semi-truck chemical explosion, bottlenecks and big rigs following smaller cars too closely, and several sad reports involving demolished motor vehicles and driver and passenger fatalities.
  • Since we can’t really abandon our I-65 travel, the team at Wagner Reese wants to help reduce your accident risk by offering these ten driving tips for sharing the interstate with semi-trucks this winter.
  • From knowing to how to pass safely and recognizing the importance of being a patient driver who is alert and off their phone, this accident reducing risk advice might also save a life.

How to Share I-65 With Blowing Snow, Ice and Big Trucks This Winter

Several Indiana interstates have been home to traffic jams and wrecks caused by winter’s late onset of blowing snow, ice, and slush covered roads. And Interstate 65 (I-65) and semi-trailer trucks seem to play common accomplices in most of those accidents. Semi-trailer trucks have many operating limitations such as large blind spots, long stopping distances, and maneuverability. These limitations make it essential for other vehicles to put an extra special focus on safety when sharing the road with them, especially during the colder months when blowing snow, ice, and slushy roads can make driving a bit more difficult.

This year alone, Hoosiers have witnessed I-65 as the scene of fiery semi-truck crashes, a chemical spill, bottleneck wrecks between three big trucks and smaller cars, and tragic accidents involving demolished motor vehicles and driver fatalities. Since many of us can’t abandon our I-65 travel, the team at Wagner Reese wants to help reduce your accident risk by offering these ten driving tips for sharing I-65 with semi-truck operators.

  1. Stay Out of the No Zones. Large trucks (and buses) have huge blind spots – or No Zones – around the front, back, and sides of the vehicle. If you can’t see the driver in the truck’s side mirror, assume that the driver can’t see you.
  2. Pass Safely. Make sure you can see the driver in the mirror before passing. Signal clearly then move into the left lane and accelerate so that you can get past the truck or bus safely and promptly. Never pass from the right lane.
  3. Don’t Cut It Close. Cutting in too close in front of another vehicle is always dangerous, but it’s especially dangerous to “cut off” a commercial truck. If you move in quickly from either side, you’re likely to be in a blind spot so the driver may not see you in time. Even if you’re visible, the vehicle may not be able to slow quickly enough to avoid a crash.
  4. Stay Back. Tailgating a truck presents added dangers. Because trucks are so high off the ground, if you fail to stop in time your vehicle could slide under the truck, especially if the roadway is icy or snow-covered. Getting too close when stopped is also dangerous – particularly on an upgrade – where a truck might roll back. In addition, during the winter increase your following distance with any vehicle in front of you from the “normal” weather recommendation of four seconds to around 8-10 seconds. This will prevent tragic intersection pile-ups caused when you cannot stop in time.
  5. Give Them Room. Large trucks require extra maneuvering room – they swing wide, or may even initiate a lane change earlier than anticipated to keep everyone safe. If a truck has its turn signal on, never try to squeeze by it or get between the vehicle and other I-65 drivers.
  6. Be Patient. Honking, driving aggressively, or weaving through traffic won’t make the trip faster, but can cause dangerous distractions and crashes. Trucks have operating restrictions, and sometimes use technology like speed limiters. Be respectful of that safety feature.
  7. Buckle Up. A seatbelt may keep you in your seat and help you maintain control of your vehicle. Wearing your seat belt is one of the most important things that you and your passengers can do to save your lives.
  8. Stay Focused. The last thing drivers should be doing is spending time on their phone while behind the wheel, especially since distracted driving remains a major culprit behind interstate crashes and thousands of Indiana car accidents every year, some fatal.
  9. Don’t Drive Fatigued. Sleep can be a true preventative measure against becoming involved in a serious accident or fatal crash. Be prepared to make alternate plans if you are too tired to drive, and acknowledge that tired driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving or distracted driving.
  10. Never Drive Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs. Alcohol and other drugs impair both judgement and reaction time. There is no safe limit for drinking before driving. If your medication carries a warning, take it seriously.

With I-65 stretching from bordering Kentucky, through Indianapolis, to the northwestern Calumet Region and part of the Chicago metropolitan area, there is no doubt drivers will encounter several road projects starting or finishing at all times of the year. If you need to travel I-65, stay updated on all the traffic and road construction happening by mapping your route in advance and knowing what you are headed into.

Big Rigs and Your I-65 Crash Risk

Since the City of Indianapolis and Marion County are positioned as one of the Midwest’s hubs for commercial travel – and with multiple busy interstates converging in and around the city – I-65 is frequently listed at the top in regard to the number of semi-truck accidents. The reasons for most of these accidents vary, but usually are caused by these triggers:

  • One of the main causes of fatal accidents is found to be intoxicated drivers or vehicle operators driving under the influence (DUI).
  • The sheer size of the large trucks, such as 18-wheelers, can disorient small cars, and make them lose their bearings.
  • About one in every two truck drivers admit to having fallen asleep while driving.
  • Many trucks are overweight, which affects their breaking and balance, and poses a serious risk to other motorists.

Although truck drivers are extensively trained on road safety rules and follow their own extra set of defensive driving techniques, these drivers and their heavy haulers still cause hundreds of Indiana accidents each year. Many times, these crashes could have been prevented if truck drivers followed some basic rules and driving procedures. Some of those include slowing down in busy areas such as work zones, maintaining safe distances from other vehicles on I-65, staying away from their ‘no-zones’, and ensuring their trucks and trailers are serviced regularly and maintained well, with safety checks carried out before each trip.

Stay Safe and Connected with Us This Winter

During the winter driving season, we are all relying on one another to keep our community safe. Thanks for staying with us as we continue to write about winter driving topics and share tips for traveling during this time on our Facebook page. Next week we will conclude this small series with a post about what to do if you encounter black ice this winter. Until then, be extra careful on I-65.

If tragedy strikes and you or someone you love is injured in a winter related driving accident, please call the vehicular accident attorneys at Wagner Reese for a free consultation. We put decades of experience to work for you, and we won’t collect any fees unless your case is settled or won. Connect with us by submitting our online form, and our attorneys will review your information. If you wish to speak directly with us, please call (888) 204-8440.

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