Right Turn Accidents Involving Semi Trucks: Who’s At Fault?

Semi truck and trailer in city traffic

Big rig right turn accidents are common.

When a big truck is negotiating a right hand turn in the outer lane in a double lane situation, would the driver automatically be found guilty should he hit a car travelling on the inside lane?

Let’s take a closer look at right turn accidents involving big trucks, to see where the blame truly lies.

We will assume that the truck is travelling in the outside lane. It strikes a car in the adjacent lane, which is travelling in the inner right turning lane.

My Right Turn Accident –  What Happened

Let’s look at this scenario.

  • There are 2 right hand turn lanes.
  • The truck is on the outside turning lane.
  • There is a car travelling on the inner lane.
  • Both vehicles are turning right.
  • The trailer tracks and hits the car and the truck driver is automatically charged.

I was personally involved in an identical situation. I was charged by the police with multiple charges, including dangerous driving.

I was making a right hand turn in my truck, pulling a 53′ trailer.

Everyone who is a trucker knows when pulling a long trailer, like a 53′ you try to use the tail of the trailer to block both turning lanes, so that  vehicles cannot attempt to sneak by while you are negotiating the turn and swinging wide at the corner.

As I was turning,  a woman driving a small car managed to sneak up on the inside lane of my truck and trailer.

As I negotiated the turn, the trailer was tracking off to the side and blocked the lane.

However, because she squeezed through into that inside lane, she got caught between my trailer tires and my drive tires.

I was in the middle of the turn. I had been proceeding slowly and carefully while in city traffic. I then spotted the car in my right hand mirror, as it was going under my trailer.

I immediately stopped. Had I continued to move, I would have most certainly squashed the front end of her car with my trailer tires.

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Police Officer Writing Ticket

The Police Lay Charges – Big Surprise

The police arrived on the scene.

Since I started my career as a professional driver, I have always carried a camera for situations like this.

I hopped out of the truck and took lots of photos of the accident scene.

I took photos of where I was in the progression of the turn, showing the fact that my turn signals were clearly visible on the trailer and the truck, both were flashing that I was making a right hand turn.

I took photos showing the truck ‘well into’ the turn in the intersection and in relationship to her car, which was a significant distance behind as I progressed through the intersection.

I was able to show in the photographs that I was clearly in the intersection before the car arrived.

The police charged me at the scene.

I asked the officer, ‘What’s your logic for the charges?

It was clear that I was in the middle of the turn, and the car attempted to sneak around me!

It was also evident from the positioning of the vehicles as well as in the photographs, that I was clearly was not the cause of the accident.

The police officer replied, “When a truck is involved in an accident, our mandate is to always charge the truck driver”.

Well, end of story.

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Right Turn Signal

My Charges Were Dropped

However,I took issue with the charge, went to court. All charges against me were dropped.

It was found that I had done my ‘due diligence’.

I was signalling and moving through the turn slowly.

I had done my best to block the lanes with the trailer so I was able to complete my turn safely.

The car was in a hurry to make the corner. She literally tried to beat me around the corner, because she didn’t want to wait for me to turn the corner.

I had done nothing wrong.

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Who’s REALLY at Fault?

Trucks are bigger and trailers are longer, than ever before.

When I became involved in the trucking industry in the early ’80’s, my trailer was 42′ feet long and 96″ wide.

The trailer I was pulling when I had the accident was 53′ in length and 102″ in width…considerably longer.

Because it was so long, it did not track very well.

Back then, the trucks and trailers were better suited to the infrastructure of the road system.  The 53′ footers today, track like the ‘Queen Mary’ when they are going around a corner!

Yet the road structures haven’t changed at all, to accommodate the bigger and longer vehicles. The laws also haven’t changed to accommodate the bigger vehicles.

The manufacturing sector and the trucking industry wants the bigger and longer trailers. Government bowed to these demands but nothing else changed.

It has left the responsibility on the truck driver to be even more careful. There’s only so much we can do as drivers.

It takes a ton of room to drag one of these behemoth trailers through a corner in a city setting.

If the road structure hasn’t changed to accommodate the larger vehicles, accidents such as this one, truly are not the fault of the truck driver.

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And You Know What Rolls Down Hill?

Yes, the truck driver will probably still be charged in similar situations to the accident I had experienced.

However, my advice to truckers is to challenge any such charges.

It is not the fault of the trucker that the equipment is over-sized and doesn’t maneuver well or safely on the existing roads.

Many four wheelers will continue to drive like fools.

So right turn accidents won’t end any time soon.

I don’t predict that 4 wheelers will stop playing that dangerous game of  ‘racing the truck around the corner’, anytime soon either.

 Always, always be so careful when negotiating a turn with a semi. 

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Row of White Fleet Big Rig Trucks

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