On December 11, a ten car pile-up on I-84 blocked all westbound lanes. Three people were injured in the accident that took place near the Meridian Road exit. The Idaho Statesman reports that investigators are still looking into the causes of the accident, but initial reports suggest that a car driving westbound failed to see stopped vehicles at the Meridian exit. The driver tried to change lanes to avoid an accident, but ended up colliding with a semi-truck in a nearby lane.
With winter weather full upon us, the risk of multiple vehicle collisions like the kind that took place on December 11 is much more likely. Fortunately, there are measures that drivers, and truck drivers in particular, can take in order to prevent tragedies from taking place. Heavy Duty Trucking offers tips that truckers and trucking companies can use in order to prevent accidents during the severe weather season.
The major causes of pileups are fog, winter weather (ice, snow, hail, sleet), smoke from wildfires, and dust conditions. When visibility is severely reduced, drivers are less likely to be able to react and stop if an accident takes place up ahead. The consequence is often a multiple car pile-up.
Of course, following other cars at a safe distance is one method drivers can use to avoid collisions, but sometimes conditions are so poor, visibility so compromised, that no distance is really a safe distance. These accidents can also take place quickly, making it difficult to impossible for drivers to react in a way that allows them to prevent accidents.
Even so, driving at safe speeds, exercising caution by following at safe distances, and turning on your headlights during poor weather can keep you, your loved ones, and other motorists safe during adverse weather conditions.
University of Michigan’s John Woodroofe also suggests that there are some occasions where drivers should simply not be on the road, particularly trucks. Woodroofe suggests that companies and operators have plans in place for zero visibility conditions. Companies should all have driver protocols for fog, whiteout, and adverse weather conditions that reduce visibility significantly.
Companies and drivers should pay attention to the weather forecast and take alternate routes during adverse weather conditions. Supervisors should be on the lookout for potentially dangerous routes and be able to warn their drivers against taking them.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains that many major truck fleets already keep a close eye on the weather report and tell drivers when they are likely to face adverse and dangerous conditions. Some carriers even hire staff meteorologists.
While not all companies can afford to hire a meteorologist, some simple precautions, like having a driver action plan, watching the weather, and stopping at rest stops or other safe locations under poor visibility conditions can keep both truckers and other motorists safe.
Unfortunately companies and motorists don’t always take precautions that could keep drivers safe.