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The hazard of large trucks on the road

Passenger cars sharing the highways with big rigs are at a distinct disadvantage if and when the two collide. Research shows that nearly one in 10 road fatalities involve a wreck with a large truck.

The majority of deaths in collisions with commercial trucks are those drivers and passengers of small trucks and cars. Due to their inherent vulnerability, passenger vehicles are just not a match for the crushing weight of a fully loaded truck bearing down on them. Those big rigs can weigh as much as 30 times the weight of a small car. Worse, the higher ground clearance can cause a smaller vehicle to underride a large truck, resulting in catastrophic injuries for the occupants.

Other factors increasing the disparity include the braking capacity of a large truck. A fully loaded semi can take up to 40 percent more distance to stop. If the truck's brakes are poorly maintained or the highway is slick with rain or ice, the distance for stopping only increases.

Fatigued truckers behind the wheel are another safety hazard. The federal government imposes Hours-of-Service regulations for drivers that allow them to operate their big rigs for up to 11 hours with no rest period and as many as 77 hours within seven days. Yet it is widely known that violations are common in the trucking industry.

In 2013, 11 percent of all deaths of occupants of passenger vehicles happened in collisions with large trucks. In crashes involving multiple vehicles in the same year, that figure jumped to 23 percent.

If you suffered injuries in a wreck with a big rig, you may be entitled to compensation from the insurance carrier of the driver or trucking company. Filing a claim for damages is the first step you will need to take.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, "Large Trucks," accessed Aug. 28, 2015

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