Why Trucks Are Especially Susceptible to Bad Weather
Bad weather is a pressing concern for any motorist, yet perhaps never so relevant as with truck drivers. Trucks face an array of unique risks in the face of bad weather, necessitating extreme caution, and extensive training for interstate travelers.
How Weather Affects Trucks
Primarily weather-related truck accidents account for approximately 2-3% of all truck crashes, yet weather conditions are a factor in significantly more crashes than that number would lead one to believe. Even moderate inclement weather, such as wind that would be negligible for a smaller vehicle, can have a profound effect on a truck’s maneuverability and ability to avoid accidents. These unique interactions between weather conditions and trucks can give rise to a variety of roadway dangers:
- Trucks feature tall, flat sides with little to no aerodynamic functionality, meaning that lateral winds apply significantly more force to them on average. This makes jackknife and rollover truck accidents far more likely, accompanied by a spike in severe injury and fatality rates.
- Since trucks take drastically longer to come to a stop than any other vehicle, diminished visibility caused by rain, snow, and fog often means that, by the time a truck driver can see a hazard, it might already be too late.
- Rain, snow, and ice can result in a complete loss of control for ungainly trucks due to hydroplaning and slipping, which can immediately cause jackknifing or large scale spinouts wherein trucks may swing across the entire roadway.
- Lightning in close proximity or deafening thunder can shock stressed, overworked, and drowsy truck drivers, causing sudden overreactions and inattention if they fail to stay calm.
Is the Truck Driver Liable?
With an understanding of how trucks are affected by bad weather, the question remains of whether or not a truck driver is responsible for an externally caused crash. In practice, drivers are almost always liable for crashes caused by bad weather. Despite being “unavoidable,” the risks of bad weather can be mitigated via preemptive measures, appropriate caution, and the decision to only drive within one’s ability. Drivers will be liable if any of the following could have prevented their crash:
- Generally maintaining their vehicle and preparing for inclement weather with snow tires, windshield wiper replacements, and other such features.
- Using headlights in low-visibility conditions, such as rain and fog, to help other drivers spot their vehicle early.
- Slowing to a safe speed for roadway conditions, even if one has to drive significantly below the speed limit.
- Exercising extreme caution and remaining hyper-vigilant, according to article § 392.14 of the FMCSA’s truck driver guidelines.
- Choosing not to drive altogether in especially bad weather and/ or if one is unable to drive safely due to inexperience or lacking vehicle specifications.
There are only two situations in which a driver won’t be liable for a weather-related accident, being emergency scenarios and acts of God. Acts of God legally refer to unavoidable freak accidents and natural disasters, such as being hit by a falling tree struck by lightning. Similarly, you likely won’t be liable if you’re forced to drive unsafely in an emergency, such as needing to rush someone in critical condition to the hospital.
Talk to an Arizona Truck Accident Attorney
If you’ve been hurt in a weather-related truck accident or simply have questions about liability law in general, we at ELG strongly recommend talking to an Arizona auto accident attorney to learn more. By scheduling a free consultation at (623) 877-3600, you can get the advice of a legal professional with extensive, specialized experience in the field, helping you rest easy.