Construction Zone Truck Accidents Attorney
Highway construction zones can be dangerous places to encounter large commercial trucks, whether on Interstate 40 in the Triangle, I-95 or on roads and highways elsewhere in North Carolina. Because of its size and weight, a large truck requires more room than other vehicles to slow down when entering a construction zone. A truck driver who is fatigued or distracted when approaching a work zone can easily cause an accident involving other vehicles and drivers, workers and others.
Tractor-trailers, flatbeds, tanker trucks and other large trucks hauling goods across North Carolina can cause serious injuries and fatal injuries in construction zone accidents. When a truck driver or others have acted carelessly and caused an accident, those who have been injured should be properly compensated for their losses and suffering.
The truck accident attorneys of Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., in Raleigh, provide quality legal representation and hands-on attention to people seriously injured in truck accidents and their families. If your future has been upended by a serious truck crash, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys of Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A. at 919-661-9000 or online today. Our legal team includes staff members who speak Spanish as well as English.
Road Construction Truck Crash Fatalities
The greater size and weight of tractor-trailers and other large trucks generally means more destruction and injury when there is a truck collision. People in smaller vehicles are more likely to sustain the brunt of the injuries in a collision with a large truck. Federal statistics show that 72% of the individuals killed in large-truck crashes in 2017 were occupants of other vehicles.
Highway construction zones are dangerous because they are likely to require closing sections of traffic lanes and diverting vehicles to temporary routes. This creates a bottleneck that inevitably causes a slow-down as well as confusion among drivers, particularly during rush hours and periods of reduced visibility.
Typically, a highway construction zone has four distinct areas:
- Advance warning area, with signs and/or workers (flaggers) who alert drivers. Sometimes lead vehicles will control the start, stop and flow of full lanes of traffic.
- Transition area with barriers, channeling devices and/or lights to alter traffic flow.
- Protected area for workers, equipment, storage, etc.
- Termination area where traffic resumes normal route and speed increases.
The danger for commercial trucks and construction zones is the need for the truck to transition from highway speed to what is required to safely enter and go through a work zone. On a dry, level road, a large truck (80,000 pounds fully loaded) traveling at 55 mph requires about 50% more distance to slow down than a passenger car needs. At 40 mph, a braking truck needs about 35% more roadway.
The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse says there were 672 fatal crashes in work zones across the country in 2018, of which a third involved trucks. Fatal truck accidents in construction zones caused 228 deaths in 2018 and an average of 236 each year from 2015-2017.
Commercial trucks and buses are involved in almost 40 percent of fatal construction zone accidents on interstate highways in urban areas and over 50 percent of fatal work zone crashes on rural stretches of interstates. Commercial motor vehicles are also more likely to be involved in fatal construction zone accidents on other principal highways in rural areas.
In North Carolina in 2018, there were five fatal truck crashes in construction zones.
Causes of Truck Accidents in Construction Zones
Truck accidents in construction zones can cause a serious or fatal rear-end collision if a truck driver fails to slow down enough to pass through the work zone safely. In addition to needing more room to slow down, large trucks have higher centers of gravity compared to passenger vehicles. This makes trucks more likely to sway or rock when they encounter lane shifts or uneven pavement in a construction zone, making control of the vehicle harder. A truck’s shifting cargo, particularly liquid loads in tanker trucks, can also make it harder to handle and at more risk of overturning.
Drivers in large trucks are also hampered by larger blind spots, which can make it more difficult for the trucker to merge lanes when encountering lane closures or lane shifts.
These issues can lead to a truck that is going too fast in a construction zone or a truck driver who is not aware of changes in traffic conditions getting into an accident.
The most common construction zone crashes involving large trucks are:
- Rear-end collisions. A truck driver who was traveling too fast, or is inattentive, may collide with the rear of stopped vehicles ahead in traffic.
- Sideswipe. When a construction zone requires a lane-shift or negotiating uneven pavement, a trucker who is going too fast may lose control and/or swerve to avoid a collision. This can lead to a rollover accident.
- Head-on collisions. A head-on collision can occur as a trucker swerves to avoid another collision or fails to negotiate a change in traffic direction and runs into oncoming traffic. Sometimes a braking truck skids out of control across the centerline into a head-on collision.
- Jackknife accidents. A truck that has braked too hard may skid, sometimes going into a “jackknife” skid in which the tractor cab and trailer slide toward each other like a closing pocketknife. A jackknifing truck is out of control and is a danger to anyone in its way.
- Rollover accidents. Trucks may roll over after jackknifing, hitting an embankment, rounding a turn too fast, or being destabilized by shifting cargo. Rollover accidents damage anything hit by the toppled truck and trailer. Cargo inevitably spills to cause additional damage or a road hazard that leads to more accidents.
Driving Safely in Road Construction Zones
Highway construction zones are a way of life in Raleigh and the Triangle area. In Wake County alone, for instance, projects are being planned today for Interstate 40 and I-440 that will not begin until 2024 at the earliest. The N.C. Department of Transportation is also working to extend the Triangle Expressway from the N.C. 55 Bypass in Apex to the U.S. 64/U.S. 264 Bypass in Knightdale. This is part of the 540 Outer Loop around the greater Raleigh area, which will require work into the 2030s to complete.
Given the reality of road construction in North Carolina, some safe driving tips to follow include:
- Plan your route. Check traffic apps and traffic info on local radio and morning TV. By their nature, construction zones are temporary and will change as the road work progresses.
- Buckle up. The best way to protect yourself in a crash is to have your lap and shoulder belts buckled.
- Don’t drive distracted. You need to be alert when approaching and driving through a work zone, especially if you are sharing the tight space with large trucks. Pay attention to the road ahead and traffic around you. Traffic patterns on your normal commute can change overnight.
- Don’t speed or tailgate. Going too fast is the top cause of construction zone fatalities. Follow speed limits and watch for instructions to slow down. Always maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you.
- Obey warning signs. If a sign says you’ll have to merge ahead, do it as soon as it is safe. Let other drivers merge, too. Waiting to get farther ahead before merging leads to backups that can contribute to accidents.
Contact Our Road Construction Truck Accident Attorneys
Truck accidents are often complex because of the potential contributors to the accident: the truck driver, the trucking company, the trailer owner, the cargo shipper, the cargo loaders, and the manufacturer of truck systems, such as brakes. In an accident that happens in a construction zone, it’s also possible that the contractors erred in the design and erection of the highway work zone and may be held liable.
It is crucial after such a construction zone accident to contact an experienced truck accident attorney who understands the hazards of trucks and highway construction zones. It is important to reach out to an attorney promptly. A construction zone can be reconfigured and evidence of the cause of your accident obscured or lost without notice.
The attorneys at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks can conduct a detailed investigation of a construction zone truck accident in the Raleigh area to identify all the potentially at-fault parties and their involvement in the crash. We can identify who should be held liable and the insurance policies available to provide compensation to our client.
After we submit a demand letter to an insurance company, we negotiate aggressively with the insurer for a full and fair settlement. If the insurance company refuses to agree to a reasonable settlement, we will be prepared to go to court if necessary. Our attorneys are skilled litigators dedicated to obtaining justice for our clients.
Contact the legal team at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., today for a free consultation about your legal options after a truck accident in a construction zone that has left you or a loved one of yours injured.