Safe Driving Tips for Maryland Motorists Driving Near Large Commercial Vehicles

Over the past 15 years the question of traffic safety has quickly grown to include dire warnings about the dangers of cellphone use while driving. With the advent of the so-called smartphone, the perils of mobile device use can hardly be called a question at this point; it is more like a full-blown concern. Ask almost anyone whether they have used a cellphone or smartphone -- such as the ubiquitous Apple iPhone or Samsun Galaxy -- and you will likely get an affirmative answer regardless of the brand. The fact is mobile devices are here to stay, which is adding to the worries about highway safety for now and into the future.

As personal injury attorneys, the lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, share the public’s concern about traffic safety. As motorists ourselves, we understand the danger presented by drivers who talk on their cellphones or smartphones without regard to the surrounding traffic conditions. It should come as no surprise that many automotive safety experts, as well as law enforcement agencies, say that using a cellphone or any other mobile device while behind the wheel is only inviting trouble for the main reason that it has been proven these technological wonders are one of the common causes of traffic collisions.

And it makes little difference if the driver is a housewife, businessman or professional trucker; from the standpoint of being a causal factor in traffic wrecks, texting and driving is nearly equivalent to drinking and driving. And, as we have said, regardless of whether a person is driving a family sedan or minivan, or operating a commercial motor vehicle, the odds of having an accident while using a cellphone or smartphone are quite high, to the point that nearly every state has laws against texting while driving. Such is the concern over phone-related crashes that people are arrested daily all across the nation for not using a “hands-free” device.

It should also be mentioned that drinking alcohol or taking drugs during or prior to driving a motor vehicle will likely cause some kind of impairment. Commercial truckers are not immune to the potential for intoxication or drug impairment, which is why there are tough federal regulations having to do with the loss of one’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) following a traffic stop or highway accident in which the use of alcohol or drugs is discovered by the police.

As drivers ourselves, we know how dangerous Maryland’s roadways can be. In fact, there are so many motorists who do text and drive that it may seem almost impossible to protect oneself against the ill effects of such activities. Fortunately, unlike drunken driving, the effects of texting and driving often do not linger once the driver discontinues the activity. Even more unfortunate is the knowledge that many passenger car and commercial trucking accidents arising from texting or talking while driving could likely have been prevented if only the driver had not used his cellphone or smartphone in the first place.

Because roadway safety is such a serious concern for most everyone who travels the roadways threading in an around cities such as Baltimore, Gaithersburg, Bowie and the District, the legal staff at Lebowitz & Mzhen have a few safety tips that may help to keep passenger car drivers and passengers safer when sharing Maryland’s roadways with large commercial vehicles. These huge and massive vehicles pose a serious risk to motorists and pedestrians alike, especially if their drivers are not paying strict attention to traffic conditions and nearby vehicles.

Avoid a Tractor-Trailer’s Blind Spots

Operating a large big rig truck is hardly an easy job. Although most professional truck drivers have a fair amount of training and on-road experience, some events can take even the most vigilant driver by surprise. Because of this -- and keeping in mind the destructive potential that all 18-wheelers represent -- it should be reiterated that passenger car drivers need to be very alert when traveling nearby commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Because of their sheer size, the very large blind spots associated with these trucks must be recognized and avoided for one’s own safety.

When a commercial trucker executes a turn, lane change or other difficult maneuver, any vehicles or pedestrians who may be hidden in the vehicle’s blind spots could be in danger of being inadvertently hit or run over. Blind spots are often blamed for many trucking-related collisions with passenger cars, motorcycles, bicycles and persons on foot. This is because quite often a truck driver can’t see the other vehicle due to its proximity with the big rig.

Because of the extreme danger inherent with many CMVs, it is important for other drivers to avoid joining the thousands of people injured or killed in commercial trucking wrecks each year. Specific blind spot areas to avoid include the zone directly behind the truck, as well as those areas close to the side of the vehicle on the passenger- and driver-side of the truck. When passing an 18-wheeler or other large CMV it is important to remember to stay visible to the truck driver and to signal your intentions using your car’s turn signals. Make your maneuver as quickly as possible and if you find yourself in the trucker’s blind spot, do not remain there for long.

Maintain a Safe Distance when Following a Big Rig Truck

Driving too closely to the rear end of a tractor-trailer rig is a common mistake made by many everyday commuters. Besides giving you little or no reaction distance, traveling too close can mask your presence as far as the driver of the larger vehicle is concerned. Staying a safe distance behind a large CMV will not only keep your vehicle out the truck’s blind spot, but will also give you time to stop should the trucker make a sudden stop or emergency maneuver. One way to know that you are probably far enough back is to observe the sideview mirrors on the tractor portion of the semi; if you can see the mirrors, the trucker should be able to see you.

Drive Cautiously when on Poor Road Surfaces or in Dangerous Areas

There is nothing quite as frightening as when a semi tractor-trailer loses traction and jackknifes right in front of a smaller passenger car. This type of situation can occur during bad weather or when driving on poor quality roadways, which is why it is critical for safety-minded motorists to operate their own vehicles with caution when around an 18-wheeler. Driving slowly and staying alert -- especially on steep declines or when the road surface is slippery, visibility is low or when weather conditions are poor -- will help most motorists to avoid a dangerous situation when sharing the road with a much larger commercial vehicle.

Be a Defensive Driver

As motorists ourselves, the legal staff at Lebowitz & Mzhen knows that driving near massive 18-wheelers on the interstate or beltway can be scary at times. A relatively small and lightweight passenger vehicle stands almost no chance during a crash involving a typical semi tractor-trailer. For this reason alone it is important to stay calm and collected when passing a large CMV and use any and all defensive driving techniques to stay out of trouble. Because aggressive drivers account for easily half of all fatal traffic accidents every year, it is imperative that motorists use care when operating their own vehicles near any 18-wheeler -- defensive driving when around an 18-wheeler could save your life and the lives of those riding with you.

Wear Your Safety Belt

Nobody expects to be involved in a serious car crash, yet each week we learn of dozens of injuries to people throughout Maryland after being caught up in a bad traffic collision. If automobile accidents can lead to severe bodily injuries, there should be no doubt that commercial trucking-related wrecks are bound to produce their share of serious and life-threatening injuries, not to mention many fatalities. One way to lessen the chances of being badly hurt or killed in a collision with a tractor-trailer is to always wear one’s seatbelt. If your vehicle is unfortunately involved in an accident with a CMV, then you will stand a much better chance of surviving the event if you are wearing a properly adjusted safety belt. Belting up only takes a couple seconds, but it can give a person many years of life after a bad commercial truck accident.

Stay Alert and Always Aware

One of the more important things one can do to stay safe around 18-wheelers is to use common sense and remain aware at all times. Staying attentive to the potential problems on the road will help to keep you and your passengers out of danger. If and when something does happen, an alert driver will be more apt to avoid a serious situation, or at least lessen the effects of someone else’s mistake. Professional truckers are, of course, trained to operate their much larger vehicles, but this does not mean that they are “superhuman.” Everyone makes mistakes, though when a commercial truck operator makes a driving error, the fallout can be deadly, to say the least.

Our attorneys have worked for years in the personal injury arena. At Lebowitz & Mzhen we feel that there can be little excuse for serious injury-related commercial trucking collisions where the driver was clearly at fault. Similarly, there is absolutely no reason why the victim of a commercial truck wreck should bear the expensive financial burden of medical treatment following a traffic accident for which they were in no way responsible. If you or someone you love has been involved in a trucking-related roadway collision, our truck accident attorneys can help.

We make it our job to fight on our clients’ behalf, protecting their right to compensation under the law and working tirelessly to obtain the just recompense that the victims of commercial truck accidents need and deserve. We understand that the medical expenses and rehabilitation required by many victims can be exorbitant. Whether a person is injured while driving their own vehicle, the occupant in a passenger car or city bus, or as a pedestrian or bicyclist, if the fault can be traced to trucker negligence, it is important to speak with a qualified trucking accident lawyer to better understand your legal rights.

At the law offices of Lebowitz & Mzhen, we are ready and willing to provide our expertise in this area. Contact us if you have questions concerning injuries you may have sustained as a result of an automobile, commercial trucking or motorcycle-related accident case. Call us, toll-free, at (800) 654-1949; or email your contact information to either Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen so that we may arrange a no-obligation consultation.