When driving in inclement weather such as rain, snow, or ice, it’s crucial to stay vigilant and be ready to navigate the slick roads carefully. In 2020, Indiana saw 4,523 crashes due to snow and slush and 2,976 due to ice.
It’s important to be extra cautious when driving near large trucks in bad weather. Their heavy loads, oversized tires, and complex braking systems mean they handle differently on slippery surfaces. By being aware of how semi-trucks operate under these conditions, you can take steps to drive safely and avoid accidents on Indiana’s roads.
How Semi-Trucks are Affected by Adverse Weather
Semi-trucks are formidable machines, and their size and weight present unique challenges when driving near them on snowy or icy roads. 18-wheelers, which have a potential weight of up to 80,000 pounds, face increased difficulty on pavement that is wet, icy, or snow-covered.
- Stopping takes longer. When roads are slick, an 18-wheeler needs more room to stop. In normal conditions, large trucks take 196 feet to stop when traveling at 55 mph. This distance increases when there is less traction on the ground due to moisture or ice.
- They maneuver with difficulty. In adverse weather conditions, semi-trucks must navigate turns even more slowly and cautiously. The likelihood of skidding or jackknifing escalates with sudden movements—such as jerking the wheel on a skid—necessitating a gentle approach, especially on roads that are slick or icy.
- Snow and ice accumulation. These trucks can gather large amounts of snow and ice, which may fall off during travel. This can be dangerous for other vehicles and requires frequent clearing.
- Visibility is reduced. Snowfall or heavy rain can cut down how much truck drivers can see. For example, in blowing snow, visibility can be reduced to well below a quarter of a mile. This makes it hard to spot other cars, road signs, and hazards, increasing the chance of accidents when the weather is bad.
- High winds. Trucks face challenges with high winds due to their huge surface area, which can push the truck and make it even more difficult to steer when ice is present.
- Cargo shifts. Improperly secured cargo can pose significant risks, especially during sudden braking or sharp turns on icy roads, as it may shift unexpectedly. This can lead to difficulty maneuvering the truck or even cause a rollover.
- Automatic braking systems struggle. These systems help prevent collisions by automatically slowing the truck down when they detect a potential impact. However, they may not perform optimally in poor visibility and slippery conditions, leading to increased response times and potential safety issues.
- Tire traction issues. Bad weather affects a semi-truck’s tire traction, reducing stability and ability to stop promptly. With less grip, big rigs can struggle to stay in control, particularly when braking or making turns on icy or wet roads.
Tips for Driving Safely Near Semi-Trucks in Inclement Weather
Inclement weather increases the danger when driving for everyone, but there are some ways you can stay safe and avoid a collision with a semi-truck.
- Maintain a safe following distance. Always keep a safe following distance from semi-trucks, at least four seconds between them and your vehicle or more, to allow for extra braking time in slippery conditions.
- Avoid blind spots. Semi-trucks have large blind spots, especially on their right side and directly behind them. Stay visible to truck drivers by avoiding these areas, and always use your signals when passing.
- Pass with caution. When passing a semi-truck in snowy or icy conditions, do so with care. Ensure you have plenty of space to complete the maneuver and return to your lane without cutting in too closely to the truck.
- Anticipate wide turns. Keep in mind that semi-trucks require additional room to execute wide turns. Try not to overtake a truck on the inside while it’s turning, as this can increase the risk of an accident.
- Use your signals. Communicate your intentions clearly by using your turn signals well in advance. This helps truck drivers anticipate your actions and react accordingly.
- Be extra wary on bridges and overpasses. These spots tend to freeze before the rest of the road, so avoid driving alongside a semi-truck when crossing them. Wait until you are over this stretch before passing to prevent a potentially deadly accident if the truck loses traction and slides.
Wagner Reese Represents Truck Accident Victims
If you are hurt in an accident with a semi-truck, our Indiana auto accident lawyers at Wagner Reese can protect your rights and help you receive compensation. Whether the crash was caused by a trucking company, driver, or third-party manufacturer’s negligence, we can help you seek a fair settlement for your injuries.
Contact us today for a free consultation where we can review the circumstances of your claim and help you take your next legal steps.