How teen drivers can effectively manage the risks posed by large trucks

While the newfound freedom and convenience that comes from securing a driver's license is certainly invigorating for teens, it's important for parents to understand that it's not without risks. To illustrate, consider the following findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:

  • Roughly 2,650 U.S. teens between the ages of 16 to 19 lost their lives, while another nearly 292,000 were treated in emergency rooms for personal injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents in 2011 alone
  • Although U.S. teens drive less than almost every age group, their crash rates and crash fatality rates are disproportionately higher.

Experts indicate that much of the blame for eye-opening figures like these can be placed on inexperience, as many teens either underestimate or simply fail to recognize dangerous driving scenarios.

While the majority of states, including Missouri, have passed graduated driver licensing laws designed to introduce full driving privileges over time in order to address this reality, the fact remains that there are still dangerous driving scenarios for which many teens are remarkably unprepared, including sharing the roads with large commercial trucks.

Examining the ever present dangers of big rigs

Figures from the American Trucking Associations reveal that as much as 70 percent of the nation's freight tonnage -- nearly 9.2 billion tons -- is moved by almost 3 million trucks per year and that these numbers are projected to get higher.

What this means is that motorists will more often than not find themselves riding in close proximity to fully loaded semis while out on busy roads and high-speed highways. This, of course, includes teens driving to and from school, work, extracurriculars and social outings.

This all becomes even more disconcerting when you consider that the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety determined that 403 people were injured and another 93 were killed in accidents involving commercial motor vehicles as recently as 2013.

Fortunately, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has offered a few basic safety tips that can go a long way toward mitigating this danger for teen drivers whose only exposure to trucks may be through their driver's education classes:

  • Understand that semis often require more space to operate and may swing into the opposite lane when executing either right or left turns
  • Follow at a safe distance as it's impossible to see around semis and, more importantly, any obstacles that may cause them to come to a sudden halt
  • Avoid driving in a semi's four blind spots Maintain sufficient space when traveling directly in front of semis as they require a much longer distance to come to stop
  • Wear seat belts and minimize distractions

Examining your options when the unimaginable occurs

While following these safety tips will go a long way toward helping teen drivers safely share the roads with trucks, it's important to understand that they can still fall victim to the dangerous driving habits of truckers, such as distracted driving, impaired driving, fatigued driving and speeding.

Indeed, a study by the American Transportation Research Institute determined that if a trucker was previously cited for reckless driving, their likelihood of later being involved in some sort of crash increased by an astounding 325 percent. These similarly shocking numbers were found for everything from failures to yield (97 percent) to exceeding the speed limit by more than 15 miles-per-hour (56 percent).

Therefore, in the event of a serious trucking accident involving your teen, it's important to consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can conduct a comprehensive investigation to uncover what happened, what mistakes were made and who must be held accountable as soon as possible.