U-turns in a semi or other large truck can be extremely dangerous and easily lead to a U-turn truck accident and catastrophic injuries or death. An example of the danger is one major transportation company which admitted that its drivers had been involved four fatal crashes involving U-turns in a recent year.
The amount of space a semi or other big truck needs to safely complete a U-turn is one of the big sources of danger. The tractor of a typical 18 wheeler is about 20 feet long. Add a 53-foot trailer and you have a vehicle with a combined length of 70 feet or more. A typical interstate highway lane is about 12 feet wide. Experienced truckers will probably tell you that it takes 4 traffic lanes for a semi to complete a U-turn. While making the U-turn the truck will probably block one or more of the traffic lanes creating the danger of a U-turn truck accident.
It’s easy to see how much harder and more dangerous it is for a semi to attempt a U-turn on road with less than four lanes. In spite of the problems and risk, some truckers try to make this dangerous maneuver on roads like two lane streets which are way too narrow for a semi or other big truck to safely execute a U-turn. The truck driver may have to move the truck forward and back a number of times to attempt the turn. During this the truck may completely or partially block traffic across the whole road creating the potential for a U-turn truck accident if other vehicles on the road crash into the semi. In addition to needing more space to maneuver, semis are heavier and usually need more time and space to accelerate. This further increases the time that they are blocking one or more traffic lane increasing the danger of a U-turn truck accident.
Visibility problems for the truck driver and other drivers also increase the risk of a U-turn truck accident. The truck driver’s ability to see what is going on around the truck is much reduced while making a U-turn. At some points the truck driver may not be able to see some other vehicles, people or objects in the vicinity of the truck. This can make it impossible for the truck driver to determine if the truck can safely continue the U-turn without crashing into them.
Reduced visibility in the rear of the truck may cause the driver to back it onto a road shoulder which can’t support the truck’s weight. If the shoulder crumbles or gives way under the truck, it can cause the truck to lean with the potential for it to roll over or potentially even jackknife. If you are in the wrong place the truck can fall on you in what is known as a rollover truck accident. If you hit the back or side of the truck and run under the truck it’s known as an underride truck accident. All of these tragic accident types often result in serious injuries or a fatality.
Another danger created by U-turns is trucks is the difficulty that other drivers may have in seeing the truck and/or trailer and understanding that it is blocking their path. This risk is particularly high at night and in other low light or reduced visibility conditions where the side of the trailer blocks one or more of the traffic lanes. Even if other drivers see the danger they may have to react very quickly and suddenly slam on their brakes to avoid becoming involved in a U-turn truck accident. Their sudden stop creates the risk of another vehicle crashing into them as well as the potential of a highway pileup involving a number of vehicles.
The Danger of U-turns- The Trucking Industry Knows.
The trucking industry and truck drivers have been well aware of the danger of U-turn truck accidents for a long time. Werner Enterprises, a trucking company with more than 9,000 trucks and drivers which run almost 1 billion miles each year recognizes the risk of U-turns and appears to be serious about avoiding having their drivers involved in a U-turn truck accident. They have a policy basically prohibiting U-turns. Werner’s 2017 driver’s manual tells their drivers to never make a U-turn unless law enforcement directs them to. Werner appears to be so serious about this that the manual says drivers who make a U-turn on any highway, interstate, road or public street are subject to disciplinary action up to and including being fired. Other trucking companies also seeking to prevent having their trucks in a U-turn accident prohibit U-turns by their drivers.
What Happens in a U-Turn Accident?
The tractor of an 18-wheeler can weigh 20,000 pounds or more. If it blocks traffic in your path you have 10-ton metal object in your way. Think about your car crashing into something like that. It’s not going to be good day.
Potentially worse is if your car or other vehicle crashes into the side of the trailer. There is a big open space under the floor of many semi truck trailers. It is very likely that this part of the trailer will block one or more traffic lanes during a U-turn. This creates the potential for what is known as a side underride trucking accident. This a particularly gruesome trucking accident where a smaller vehicle moves into the open area under in the slowed or stopped trailer. The top of the passenger vehicle may be peeled back or torn off with the potential to kill or seriously injure the car’s driver and other occupants.
Preventing a U-turn Truck Accident
The simplest way to prevent a U-turn truck accident is for trucks not to do U-turns. This is why some motorists and traffic safety advocates call for a ban on U-turns by trucks. As indicated above some trucking companies already have taken steps like this. To prevent their trucks from being involved in U-turn truck accident a number of trucking companies prohibit their drivers from doing U-turns or severely limit the circumstances in which they are allowed to do them. Some back this up with a range of discipline including making doing a U-turn a fireable offense.
If a U-turn in semi or other large truck is absolutely necessary there are ways to reduce the risk of this dangerous maneuver. Instead of making a dangerous highway U-turn, if the trucker is driving on a highway with interchanges, the trucker may be able exit at the off ramp of the next interchange and re-enter the highway via the on-ramp heading in the other direction. In other situations the truck driver to may call the police and see if they would be willing to control traffic in the vicinity and help facilitate the U-turn safely. Empty parking lots with sufficient open space may also make it possible for a truck to do a U-turn more safely.
To reduce U-turn accident frequency some motorists and traffic safety advocates call for a ban on truck U-turns. But even without this ban, there are already laws in place that require drivers to practice safety at turns and intersections. The problem is that some truck drivers and trucking companies are still negligent when it comes to road safety, disregarding rules that are supposed to protect other vehicles and pedestrians around them.
Missouri and Kansas U-turn Laws on U-Turns
Recognizing the danger of U-turns and the potential for a U-turn truck accident, Missouri and Kansas both restrict U-turns in many situations.
Missouri Rev. Stat. § 304.015.3 generally prohibits U-turns on divided highways except at interchanges, intersections or place designated by the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission or Missouri Department of Transportation by sign. Missouri Rev. Stat. § 304.431 prohibits U-turns in situations like intersections with traffic signals, curves, on approaches or near the crest of a grade (slope), in other situations and where the U-turn may cause a traffic hazard. From the discussion of the space and time semis need to complete a U-turn, in many situations performing this maneuver creates the risk of a U-turn truck accident and is therefore likely illegal in many circumstances under Missouri law.
Kansas law also restricts U-turns. Kansas Statute Annotated Section 8-1546 of Kansas Statutes is called “Limitations on ‘U’ Turns.” It prohibits U-turns in curves, near or approaching the crest of a grade, where the vehicle can’t be seen within 500 feet by other vehicles or where the U-turn can’t be made safely and not interfere with other traffic. K.S.A. 8-1524 discusses a number of rules for driving on divided and controlled access highways including U-turns. It prohibits U-turns on Interstate highways, where prohibited by signs which the authority which has jurisdiction over the highway has posted and in certain other situations. Given the inherent risk of a U-turn truck accident when a semi or other big truck attempts or do a U-turn, as discussed in detail above, they are probably against the law in many situations in Kansas as well. In addition to these state laws local or county laws or ordinances may govern U-turns.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations appear not to specifically prohibit U-turns by commercial motor vehicles. However, they do require that all commercial motor vehicles which are required to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations obey the regulations, laws and ordinances of the place they are operating in.
Call Flick Law Firm for Your U-turn Truck Accident Case
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a U-turn truck accident call Flick Law Firm for help. We have been successfully helping people hurt in truck accident cases for more than 20 years and would like to try to help you.