After a tractor-trailer sideswiped an SUV on I-81 in Rockbridge County, Virginia (VA), the commercial truck driver died and three other people went to the hospital with injuries. The deadly wreck happened just past mile marker 180 in the southern part of the county.
State troopers responded to the crash on the afternoon of May 28, 2018. They found the semi in a stand of trees off the side of the highway and the SUV flipped onto its side. The truck driver died at the scene, and his passenger in the cab survived with injuries that were described in news reports as minor.
The two people in the SUV also suffered injuries, but each is expected to recover. According to police, the deceased tractor-trailer operator caused the collision by attempting an unsafe lane change.
Records kept by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles list “improper lane change” as the second most common cause of crashes involving commercial vehicles in the state during 2017. The agency recorded 520 wrecks attributed to unsafe lane changes, with only “following too closely” being a more frequently cited cause.
Tractor-trailer drivers must exercise great caution and patience when changing lanes. As the Virginia DMV’s webpage devoted to motor carrier safety explains, big rigs have large “no zones.” These zones, the agency explains, “are the danger areas around large trucks where crashes are more likely to occur. Some no zones are actually blind spots or areas around trucks where your passenger vehicle disappears from the truck driver's view. These blind spots around large trucks are on the left and right sides, and immediately in front and back.”
When semi drivers ignore their no zones, they often cause crashes like this one on I-81 in Rockbridge County. DMV statistics show that crashes involving commercial vehicles killed 94 people in Virginia during 2017 and left another 1,877 people injured. While not every one of those wrecks resulted from an improper lane change, enough did to make large truck drivers’ failure to check their blind spots a serious danger to all individuals.
As summer vacations begin, more people will be sharing highways with semis. My Virginia personal injury law firm colleagues and I urge all commercial truck drivers to keep right and to only change lanes when absolutely necessary and only after making every effort possible to ensure no smaller vehicles are in their blind spots.