Are you a little fearful of that oncoming tractor trailer as it approaches on a two lane highway curving around a mountainside? Do you ever feel like a mouse dancing with elephants, as you drive alongside these huge trucks on the interstate, in your little compact car? Good! According to the latest reports of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), you have every reason to be scared.

Multi-vehicle accidents involving tractor trailers (large trucks) are much more likely to result in a fatality than accidents where the tractor trailers are not involved. In 2007, of the 41,059 deaths that occurred on our nation’s roads, 4,808 of them resulted from accidents involving these semi-trailers. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of those deaths were occupants of the passenger vehicles. Based on the report, the occupant of the passenger vehicle is 12 times more likely to die than is the driver of the truck, in a multi-vehicle accident involving a large truck.

Here in Virginia, in 2007, there were 95 fatalities from multi-vehicle accidents involving large trucks. Of those fatalities, 7 were the truck drivers and 88 were occupants in the other vehicles.

So be careful. Stay alert to help prevent accidents. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Give the tractor trailer as wide a berth as possible. Do not crowd the truck. Know where the driver’s blindspots are, and stay out of them. Drive ahead. Be aware of what -is ahead of you and stay out of the truck’s way. Remember that the tractor trailer (gross weight 80,000 Lbs.) requires more time to stop, and more room to maneuver. Be generous with these, and you will greatly improve your chances of avoiding death and injury to yourself and your loved ones.

Though we all should do everything in our power to avoid vehicular accidents, the law holds the owners and professional operators of the tractor trailers to even higher standards. Too often these traffic deaths are the result of owners and operators not maintaining and operating the vehicles in accordance with the laws that exist to make our highways safer.

If you or a loved one has been in an accident involving one of these big rigs, it’s possible that the owner or operator was in some way not in compliance with the laws. You may have cause to ask the driver and/or company to compensate you for your loss. It is important that you gather all the information you can at the time and place of the accident on: the driver, the insurance company, the company that employs the driver, and the truck. Take pictures if possible. Get the names and phone numbers of all witnesses.

Seek the advice of a reputable attorney that specializes in personal injury law, as soon as possible, after the accident. In order to protect your rights to seek compensation for your damages, don’t sign any document offered to you by the insurance adjuster until you have a qualified personal injury lawyer look it over.

And remember, that the next mile you drive is the most dangerous. If you keep that in mind, it may save your life.

General information on highway traffic safety is available at the NHTSA. To report a safety-related problem or to inquire about motor vehicle safety information, contact the Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236.

Fact sheets that are available from the National Center for Statistics and Analysis are Overview, Alcohol, African American, Bicyclists and Other Cyclists (formerly titled Pedalcyclists ),Children, Hispanic, Motorcycles, Occupant Protection, Older Population, Pedestrians, Race and Ethnicity, Rural/Urban Comparisons, School Transportation-Related Crashes, Speeding, State Alcohol Estimates, State Traffic Data, and Young Drivers .Detailed data on motor vehicle traffic crashes are published annually in Traffic Safety Facts: A Compilation of Motor Vehicle Crash Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the General Estimates System. The fact sheets and annual Traffic Safety Facts report is accessible online at www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Cats

NHTSA ’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590

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