Florida Illegal Truck Turns
Wide and illegal truck turns have been cited in many Florida truck accident lawsuits , with carelessness being the cause of substantial property damage and severe injuries.
As our Fort Myers truck accident lawyers can explain, large commercial trucks don’t turn the same way as passenger vehicles. As noted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), large trucks have a turn radius of 55 feet. In making right turns, these highway behemoths often need to swing wide into the left lane, which allows them to ultimately move into their own lane without running up on the curb. But this maneuver can be especially dangerous at high speeds., at busy intersections or in dense urban or residential areas with narrow roadways.
Wide right turns can result in:
- Side impact collisions.
- Head-on collisions.
- Crashes involving vehicles trapped between the truck and the curb. (This is sometimes called “the squeeze,” wherein truckers are unable to see the other motorist in time to prevent the crash.
- Bicycle and pedestrian accidents.
Other drivers should be aware that large truck operators not only make wide turns, but also have large blind spots and long stopping distances. That’s why other road users are urged to exercise extreme caution around them. However, that doesn’t negate the responsibility of commercial truck drivers to operate their rigs with the utmost care and caution.
Unfortunately, in addition to the inherently dangerous wide turns, we also see far too many Florida large truck crashes caused by illegal turns. In Florida, this can refer to a few scenarios:
- Illegal U-turns. Per S. 316.1515 , no driver of any vehicle is allowed to turn the vehicle around so as to proceed in the opposite direction on any street unless such movement can be made safely, without interfering with other traffic and isn’t barred by posted traffic control signs.
- Illegal right turns. Per S. 316.151 , any vehicle making a right turn has to make the approach and turn as close as possible to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway. If they’re overtaking a passing bicycle going in the same direction, they’re required to give an appropriate signal and make the right turn only if the bicyclist is at least 20 feet from the intersection, of such a distance the driver can safely turn.
- Illegal left turns. Also per S. 316.151 , drivers turning left at an intersection, public or private roadway, or driveway must do so in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in that direction and remain in that lane until the turn is completed. Furthermore, F.S. 316.122 states that all drivers intending to turn left in an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway must yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or vehicles that are lawfully passing on the left of the turning vehicle. Failure to yield is a top cause of serious South Florida truck accidents, particularly when it’s the trucker turning left.
All drivers are expected to obey any traffic control devices or authorities directing them to do something different than what the statute indicates at a certain intersection/at a specific time, based on local events or conditions.Who Is Most at Risk When Truckers Make Illegal, Unsafe Turns?
Anyone sharing the road with a careless truck driver is potentially at risk. On average, more than 4,100 people in the U.S. die annually each year in large truck accidents - almost all occupants of other vehicles or pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. The disparity in weight between 40-ton semi trucks versus the average 1.5-ton car has something to do with why it’s typically not the trucker who’s hurt in a crash. Still, there are some whose odds for peril are heightened. These include:
- Curbside drivers when there are two turn lanes. Some Florida roads have two turn lanes allowing motorists to make a right turn. Operators of large trucks are typically going to take the outer lane, as it’s the one that allows them a wider turning radius. But drivers of passenger vehicles in that inner lane may want to hang back a few beats to allow that truck to complete the turn before proceeding, just to be safe.
- Bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists. These are the most vulnerable road users in Florida - long before we factor in a 40-ton semi truck. Not only are they more likely to be hit, they’re more likely to be seriously hurt. Motorcyclists are going to be especially at risk encountering big trucks on the highway, just because of the speed. However, large trucks can be deadly even at a slower pace. It isn’t a rare sight to see the back end of a truck bouncing over the side of the curb. Bicyclists or pedestrians anywhere near those spots are going to be in danger. Even in parking lots, pedestrians and bicyclists must bear in mind that big trucks have big blind spots; it can be particularly difficult to see a single person or bicyclist from up in the rig. If you’re in a bicycle lane or a parking lot and see a large truck approaching, steer clear if possible.
- Drivers traveling the opposite direction to which the truck is turning. Narrow and two-lane roads can make it tough for truckers to stay in their lane. Frequently, they are seen taking up some or all of the opposing lane. If the trucker miscalculates the amount of room they have or fails to allow oncoming drivers adequate space, a crash can easily occur.
Operating a large truck takes training, skill, practice, and great caution. A driver who is unprepared for the road or pressured by an employer to bend the traffic rules in order to reach a destination faster puts others in danger.
Common causes of truck accidents involving wide turns and illegal turns:
- Poor training. Trucks do not turn the same way as your average vehicle. Right hand turns in particular need to be handled with certain technique and skill. Swinging too far out will cause the driver to collide with oncoming traffic. Sticking too close to the curb can cause the driver to bounce up onto the curb - possibly even overturn.
- Not checking blind spots. Every motorist should check their blind spots before turning, making note of other vehicle’s proximity and anticipated actions. If a driver is traveling to the right, they shouldn’t attempt to turn until the other driver is out of the danger zone. This rule is especially important for drivers of big rigs.
- This is a major problem everywhere, no matter what type of vehicle one is driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( NHTSA ) reports an estimated 3,100 people die annually in distracted driving crashes. That figure is likely a low estimate. Truck drivers cannot afford to miss a single beat behind the wheel. Unfortunately, too many do, and the results can be tragic.
- Impaired driving. Driving under the influence of alcohol is extremely dangerous (and illegal), but so too is driving under the influence of marijuana, methamphetamines (even those prescribed), and some over-the-counter medications. Modern trucks are complex machines and require operators to be keenly alert and prepared to react. Truck drivers in Florida are expected per S. 316.193 to refrain from being under the influence of alcohol or any substances to the extent their normal faculties are impaired. Drunk driving in a Florida truck accident case can be used as evidence of negligence per se , or as a matter of law. That doesn’t mean you’ll automatically win, but it can make your case much easier, and may even result in a faster settlement.
- Big trucks are tough to maneuver. That’s part of why the industry is so regulated and why so much training is required. Turns should be taken slowly and with appropriate care. Drivers who turn too fast increase the odds of a collision, jackknifing or rollover.
- Truckers often work long hours, an issue federal regulators have tried to address with hours of service limitations . But not all drivers or carriers obey the law. Lack of sleep can leave drivers poor reflexes, depth perception and overall judgment - all of which can easily factor into a crash.
- Failure to use turn signals. Signaling our intentions to other drivers is written into the law for a reason - and it’s not simple courtesy. It’s key to safety, and it’s critically important for those driving large trucks. When truckers fail to alert other drivers to their intention to turn, the risk of “squeezing” those other vehicles goes up.
- Unfamiliarity with the area. While the basics of a turn are the same from one to the next, the reality is some turns have unique hazards, and not all are obvious at first glance. Some roads have barriers that others don’t. Some are narrower with less room to navigate. If a truck driver isn’t familiar with the layout of a particular road or intersection, making safe turns is trickier. That’s why they must approach every turn with ample caution. Failure to do so may be used as evidence of negligence (failure to use reasonable care) in a subsequent crash case.
Even when the cause of a trucking accident is relatively clear, claims can still be complicated by the severity of injuries, high damages, and numerous defendants (driver, truck owner, carrier, logistics company, etc.). It’s important if you’re injured in a South Florida trucking accident that you consult with an experienced, local personal injury lawyer to ensure your rights and best interests are protected.
Contact Garvin Injury Law, trucking accident lawyers serving Fort Myers, Punta Gorda, Sarasota, Naples, and Key West, by calling 239.277.0005, or write to us online for a free case review.