A recent news article led to this blog post. The report of an accident that claimed at least one life painted a truly horrid picture. It was on I-78 in Pennsylvania that the tragic crash took place. Though the definite cause is not yet known, one thing is clear: the tractor trailer driver involved did not stop fast enough when coming upon an idling car, thus proper speed was most likely not maintained.
The passenger car was stopped at a toll booth on the interstate when it was plowed down by the semi-truck. The car’s driver was quickly pronounced dead, but before rescue efforts could get underway, the tractor trailer truck went up in flames. There are a number of reasons why a vehicle can catch flames, but generally in an accident situation, it is due to a crack in the tank feeding fuel that ignites a spark causing fire. By the time that the firefighters could extinguish the flames, there was little left of the crushed, cooked vehicle.
This accident points to a serious problem on highways today. Whether driving in one of the monster-size cargo carriers or a tiny economy car, people are traveling at high speeds without allowing enough space between themselves and the cars ahead of them. Proper speed limits are determined as law for a reason.
The average car measures in at 12 to 18 feet in length, up to six feet in height, and can weigh upwards of 4,000 pounds. That is a lot of metal, but it is nothing compared to the massive size of a semi-truck. The huge beasts can stand more than eight feet tall, 65 feet in length, and, when fully loaded, will often weigh in close to 80,000 pounds. Needless to say, we ask a lot of the braking systems on our vehicles today.
How can a St. Petersburg resident avoid a crash like the one above? It all comes down to respecting the limitations of vehicles. When faced with a potential obstacle in the road, a person must first see it. The distance traveled before this message registers in the brain is considered the perception distance. The reaction time is the span of distance that occurs between recognition of the obstacle and applying the brake. Braking distance is the area traveled between applying the brake and the vehicle actually coming to a complete stop.
Given that, an increase of just ten miles per hour can increase total stopping time by 40 percent for the average passenger car. However, the heavier the vehicle, the more difficult it is to stop. That same ten miles per hour increment can cause an increase in stopping time for a tractor trailer truck by 55 percent. Traveling at 55 miles per hour, it already takes a tractor trailer truck an extra hundred feet to come to a stop, as compared to a car. Adding those ten miles per hour will mean that the same semi-truck will need up to 520 feet before it can come to a complete standstill. That’s approximately a tenth of a mile, nearly 30 car lengths.
Feel safer driving your car? At 65 miles per hour, it’s still going to take upwards of 17 car lengths to come to a complete stop. That means that if you truly want to avoid a crash in Saint Petersburg, you are going to have to put a lot of distance between you and the vehicle you are following. If you are involved in a crash, speak to a personal injury attorney.