Recently I was making the trip from Raleigh to Charlotte for work when I noticed a passenger vehicle quickly merge in front of a tractor trailer then quickly change lanes yet again. I am a protective person. It is a trait that serves me, and more importantly, my clients well in my work as a civil defense attorney. I immediately felt for the truck driver. Fortunately, he was able to avoid an accident but we all know that is not always the case in these situations as the stopping capability for the tractor trailer is different from that of the small vehicle that totally cut off the trucker. As I continued to travel down Interstate 85, I observed multiple vehicles repeat this same thing, quickly merging directly in front of tractor trailers, sometimes as traffic was coming to a halt. The experience brought me back to a recurring thought that has bothered me for years, “Why is there not an awareness campaign for the trucking industry?”
“Share The Road.” “See Me, Save Me.” Just seeing these bicycle and motorcycle awareness campaign slogans bring images to mind. There are t-shirts with these phrases, commercials, billboards, posts shared on social media, all geared towards making others aware of the unique dangers that come when motor vehicles, bicycles, and motorcycles share the roadway. Where is the campaign for the trucking industry? I decided to stop merely asking myself that question and start asking this question to others so that maybe it is a step towards something actually changing to help educate all drivers about the unique dangers that exist when vehicles and larger trucks like tractor trailers share the roadway. Just like with other aspects of operating any type of vehicle, the need to be mindful of the other drivers on the road helps keep us all safe. It is also important for the general public to better understand what it is like for a truck driver in certain scenarios, to be able to sympathize with some of the impact on a trucker, particularly when the resulting accident is unavoidable. Just like bikers want the general public to “see them,” we need the general public to “see” you.
You may own a trucking company, drive a large truck or in some way have a connection to the trucking industry. I encourage you to communicate to any organization you are associated with to explore a media awareness campaign for the trucking industry. Why? One reason is the importance of the general public better understanding the unique dangers of certain maneuvers on the roadway around larger trucks so that, hopefully, there will be a decrease in accidents. You know better than anyone that the scenario I witnessed and described above can end badly. Accidents between large trucks and passenger vehicles are different, sometimes deadly. With the increase in drivers texting while operating vehicles, things will continue to get worse. This leads me to a second reason an awareness campaign has been on my mind for years.
I want you to imagine that it was your driver or you personally in the tractor in the scenario described above. I want you to imagine that you were unable to avoid the accident because the passenger vehicle cut directly in front of you as you both were cresting a hill and traffic on the other side of the hill is stopped. Imagine the frantic attempt to avoid the accident and the fear of what might happen, the complete inability to change the probable outcome. Then, what you feared happens. Fast forward to you or your company have been sued. If your case is going to be decided by twelve strangers, do you not want images coming to mind of how dangerous that situation was, how unlikely it was that anyone in your position could have done something differently to avoid the accident? I trust that your attorneys will do their best to make sure these points are made. Going back to the campaigns described above, based on my trial experience, there are some biases attorneys face in selecting juries when the case involves bicycles and motorcycles. The awareness campaigns for bikers can play a role in minimizing any negative bias and, potentially, work in the favor of the biker because now the potential juror sees the personal side of the biker’s perspective and can better put any negative bias aside to be more open to listen to the evidence and be fair to all sides. There can be a negative bias towards the trucking industry. My hope is by making the public more aware of what you experience and the unique dangers that exist in certain scenarios, should you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing a jury to decide your case, it might increase the chances of a jury putting any preconceived negative bias that might exist towards you or your company aside.
If you know of anyone working on such a campaign or would like to discuss any ideas you may have about such a campaign, I invite you to contact me at (919) 719-3718 so we may discuss it further. If you think such a campaign is of value to you, your company or the trucking industry, I again encourage you to reach out to individuals and organizations you feel may be in the best position to make an awareness campaign for the trucking industry a reality.
The information published in Hedrick Gardner Alerts is general in nature and not intended to take the place of legal advice on any particular matter. © 2017 Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo LLP