The holidays are fast approaching and this means that drivers in Fairfax County are likely seeing an increase in the number of trucks and other vehicles on the roads and highways around them. This is not uncommon as stores stock up on goods for holiday shoppers and the number of shoppers and travelers grows. However, with more traffic and truckers, the risk of being involved in a truck accident rises.

Holiday months yield highest numbers

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reports that there were 123,579 accidents that occurred in 2012 and 14,500 of those crashes happened in Fairfax County. Commercial drivers were involved in 4,363 accidents, which resulted in over 3,000 injuries and 90 deaths.

According to the statistics, more car accidents occurred in the last three months of the year, with over 11,000 collisions taking place in October, November and December last year. The Thanksgiving holiday was the most fatal with 14 deaths and Christmas followed closely at 11 deaths. It is unknown how many of those involved tractor-trailers.

Passenger vehicle occupants feel the impact

When a tractor-trailer and a passenger vehicle collide, it is generally the occupants of the vehicle that feel the full impact. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2011, 66 percent of all fatalities in accidents involving large trucks were in passenger vehicles.

Some of the blame rests on truckers and trucking companies who act in negligent ways. Truckers may be guilty of drunk driving, reckless driving or distracted driving while companies may not have taken precautions to make sure that their fleet vehicles have been mechanically maintained or that loads are secured properly.

Tips for driver safety around trucks

Sometimes drivers can inadvertently put themselves in danger by failing to understand how to behave around a large tractor-trailer. Risky behaviors include:

  • Driving in the no-zones – semis have large blind spots called no-zones, which are located behind the trailer, in front of the cab, to the right of the cab, and on the left side of the cab just behind the driver.
  • Squeezing the truck – Trucks make wide turns and sometimes drivers may try to squeeze by them, which can leave them trapped.
  • Cutting off a semi – some drivers pass a truck and then cut in front of them in an effort to get to an off-ramp or just to get ahead of the truck. However, if traffic suddenly slows and the driver needs to slam on the brakes, the semi has nowhere to go except into the back of their vehicle
  • Flashing headlights at a semi – while some drivers may think that they are alerting semis to a future lane change, truckers become confused and may think that there is a danger up ahead or that they need to change lanes.
  • Not giving a semi the room it needs – Semis are large and heavy and when they need to merge onto a highway or change a lane, it is best for drivers to slow down and give them room

In addition, drivers should also remember that truckers often slow down as they ascend a hill. This may be due to gear shifting or trying to build momentum to take the next hill.

When drivers have been injured because of the actions of a trucker or a trucking company, they should immediately contact an experienced attorney to discuss seeking appropriate compensation for their injuries and other damages.