A truck driver attempted to back his semi into a driveway at one night about 9PM in Newnan, Georgia. He blocked three lanes of the road, and his big rig was struck by an elderly driver who couldn’t stop in time. The victim died several months later from his injuries. His estate subsequently received a $2 million settlement with a trucking company on January 27, 2021. You want an experienced Atlanta truck accident attorney on your side.
This driving activity of reversing or backing up takes up less than 1% of a semi driver’s time behind the wheel, but creates roughly 25% of all vehicle-related accidents.
Backing Up a Semi is Always Dangerous
The Georgia Commercial Driver License Driver License Manual states that “[b]ecause you cannot see everything behind your vehicle, backing is always dangerous.” One reason for this—like the case of the accident in Newnan—a semi driver may take up multiple lanes of traffic, including oncoming traffic lanes, while trying to back up. In addition, a reversing tractor-trailer poses a risk to other motorists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians in the following ways:
- Stopping suddenly without warning to others;
- Occupying sidewalks or bike lanes designed for pedestrians and cyclists; and
- Occupying multiple lanes of traffic—including oncoming traffic lanes.
Why is Backing a Semi-Truck So Difficult?
Several factors contribute to making backing up a big rig extremely difficult and inherently dangerous:
- Location: A semi driver backing in an area where there are typically pedestrians or other cars present may be easily distracted. Likewise, in remote, industrial areas, a trucker may not see a pedestrian or another driver while backing up and assume that there’s no one around.
- Visibility. Big rigs have backup alarms, and many folks recognize the loud “beep-beep” of a truck that’s backing up. But even with this alarm system, some truck drivers may rely on the alarm and not properly evaluate the area before backing up.
- Severe Weather. Drivers must exercise more care in adverse conditions. Bad weather can cause slippery conditions and low visibility. Plus, there’s a greater chance for skids and loss of traction.
- Time of Day. This goes together with the reduced visibility. Darkness makes pedestrians and other vehicles difficult to spot.
Semis Should Avoid Backing Up When Possible
The Georgia Commercial Driver License Driver License Manual instructs big rig drivers to avoid backing whenever they can. This means parking in a way that allows them to be able to pull forward when they leave. The manual provides several safety rules for truck drivers when they’re required to back up:
- Begin the Maneuver in the Proper Position. The semi driver should put the vehicle in the best position to allow him or her to back up safely.
- Watch the Path of the Truck. The truck driver must eye the line of travel before they start backing up. They should exit the big rig and walk around it to check the clearance to the sides and overhead, in and near the path the semi will take.
- Use of Mirrors. The truck driver must check the outside mirrors on both sides frequently, and should get out of the semi and check its path if he or she is unsure.
- Slowly Back Up. The tractor-trailer driver always must back up as slowly as possible and do so in the lowest reverse gear. This allows him or her to more easily correct any steering errors and to stop quickly if necessary.
- Back Up and Turn Toward the Driver’s Side. Backing up to the driver’s side allows the driver to see better. Backing up toward the right side is very dangerous, as the semi driver can’t see as well and there are bigger blind spots. Backing up and turning toward the driver’s side allows the driver to watch the rear of the vehicle by looking out the side window. The Georgia Commercial Driver License Driver License advises “even if it means going around the block to put your vehicle in this position. The added safety is worth it.”
- Use a Helper. The driver attempting to back up should use a helper when possible because there are blind spots the driver can’t see. A helper should stand near the back of the semi where the driver can see him or her. Before the semi driver starts to back up, the two should work out a set of hand signals that they both understand, and agree on a signal for “stop.”
Many of These Accidents are Preventable
Backing collisions cause more than 500 deaths and 15,000 injuries per year, many of which involve children. Many of these accidents are preventable, and semi drivers must know and trucking companies must properly train their drivers on safe backing procedures.
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study found that over 90% of backing accidents can be attributed to either (i) the fact that the driver was unaware of the obstacle; or (ii) the driver used improper backing techniques.
NHTSA also explains that there are a number of hazards that have to be considered when backing up a tractor-trailer:
- There’s inadequate clearance on both the sides and the top of the semi;
- Objects are present directly to the rear of the tractor-trailer;
- Objects move into the pathway of the truck;
- Blind spots are created by the big rig; and
- Ground guides (helpers) are inattentive or aren’t doing their job.
Most importantly, semi drivers must be aware of the potential for these types of collisions to prevent backing accidents. The failure to do so can result in liability for negligence.
Operating a big rig in reverse can be very dangerous, and truck drivers must use these types of precautions to avoid accidents. If you believe that the negligence of a truck driver or his or her employer, the trucking company, contributed to your injuries, you should consult with an experienced Atlanta truck accident attorney.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a backing or reversing commercial vehicle, speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer who has successfully resolved similar types of cases. You should work with an experienced Atlanta truck accident attorney. Contact Tobin Injury Law, and we will work to get you the compensation you deserve. We know what to look for when suing a trucking company.
You can contact an Atlanta truck accident attorney 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 404-JUSTICE (404-587-8423) or using our online contact form. Tobin Injury Law offers free consultations, and we’ll be glad to answer your questions.