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Failure to Use Turn Signals Truck Accident Lawyer in Boston, MA

Signaling your intention isn’t a good idea if you’re playing poker. But with a big rig on the road, it could mean the difference between life and death. At every opportunity possible, other drivers should know exactly what a trucker intends to do, whether it’s turning or changing lanes, exiting or entering the highway or preparing to make a stop.

Turn signals are one of the few active and ongoing means of driver communication. Ensuring other motorists know about a trucker’s intent in enough time to react means making sure a big rig is in good working order. Carriers should conduct regular maintenance and systems testing on all lights, turns signals, horns, break signals, back-up alarms, warning signs and other devices to be assured all are fully functional.

Beyond that, it is the trucker’s duty to obey Massachusetts law regarding use of turn signals and lane changes, giving other motorists enough time to react.

Commercial vehicles can weigh tens of thousands of pounds and have many blind spots. It’s incumbent on truck drivers to be extra careful – and that includes always signaling a lane change or turn.

Truck Drivers Required to Signal by Law

Turn signals are a vital safety feature that not only come standard in every vehicle, but their use is required by law.

Federal commercial vehicle law has very specific requirements when it comes to the lights, lamps, signals and reflectors. FMCSR Title 49 CFR, Part 393 spells out the baseline standards for all vehicle truck components, including brakes, windows, electrical equipment and lighting.

As Boston truck accident attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman can explain, MGL 90§14B hold that everyone operating a motor vehicle before stopping or making any turning movement that would impact the operation of other vehicles “shall give a plainly visible signal.”

Such signals can include activation of brake lights or directional lights or some other signal, as provided on that vehicle.

Typically, Massachusetts law allows for most drivers in a situation where the vehicle’s mechanical or electrical signals isn’t operating to give a hand/arm signal to let other drivers know their intention. These hand signals are the same used by bicyclists:

  • Hand Up, Arm Out Horizontally = Left Turn.
  • Hand Up, Arm Up = Right Turn.
  • Hand Down, Arm down = Stop.

Arguably, though, these signals won’t work in the case of a commercial truck operator because big rigs are simply too large for surrounding motorists to see hand signals.

In personal injury law, we often talk about “adequate warning.” In the case of a vehicle weighing 10,000 pounds or more, it is unlikely a hand signal would be considered “visible” as defined in the statute or “adequate” as described in common law.

Not using a blinker or hand signal to let other drivers know their intention is very plainly a form of negligence, which is failure to use reasonable care when one had a duty to do so. Although Massachusetts doesn’t recognize per se negligence (negligence presumed because one broke the law), it can be used as strong evidence of it.

Many Drivers Fail to Use Their Blinkers

Of course, it’s not just truckers who have this problem. In fact, truckers often cite it as one of their greatest pet peeves of other motorists.

In the first-ever comprehensive field study on the use of turn signals conducted in 2012, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International) revealed that almost half of the 12,000 studied neglected to use the safety feature.

They opined that if drivers neglected their turn signals just 10 percent of the time (an extremely low estimate) and only 1 in 150,000 un-signaled turns or lane changes resulted in a crash, a very conservative estimate would result in 2 million car crashes in the U.S. annually.

In a casual survey of 1,000 drivers conducted by Response Insurance, 57 percent responded stating they didn’t use turns signals. Reasons given include:

  • Not enough time;
  • Laziness;
  • Might forget to turn them off;
  • Other drivers don’t;
  • It’s not important to use them;
  • Adds to the excitement of driving.

The main takeaway, the insurer’s CEO said, is that most drivers are failing to appreciate the importance of their turn signals.

Relying only on driver input for turn signals is clearly ineffective.. Some researchers have posited that requiring patented “smart turn signal” technology could vastly reduce truck accident rates while imposing minimal cost. Although some trucking carriers have voluntarily adopted smart turn signal technology, there currently is no requirement to do so.

Failure to Use Blinker in Truck Accidents

Truck accidents are complex events. Things that might influence the occurrence of a collision could take place hours, days or even months prior to the crash – particularly with commercial vehicles because numerous individuals and companies are responsible for its maintenance, packing and operation.

In a 2017 study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, of the top three critical events that led to large trucks accidents, “running out of the travel lane, either into another lane or off the road” was No. 1, accounting for 32 percent of large truck crashes. Failure to use one’s turn signal is often a factor in these crashes.

Colliding with the rear end of a vehicle in the truck’s travel lane came in at No. 3, on the event list. Failure to use a turn signal can directly lead to such a crash, particularly if a truck is traveling too fast or doesn’t have functional brake lights. Rear end collisions create a rebuttable presumption of negligence by the rear driver, though failure of the other vehicle to use a turn signal can be used as evidence to refute this.

“False assumptions of another driver’s intentions” was also specifically cited as a statistically significant factor in truck collisions.

It’s not just rear-end collisions either. T-bone crashes – among the most lethal – can occur when a vehicle is waiting to turn in front of traffic but doesn’t show other drivers his or her intention to do so. Turn signals are especially important at intersections that don’t have turn-only lanes so that other motorists are aware when a driver intends to turn instead of continuing straight.

Use of turn signals is a form of negligence that has been proven to cause trucking accidents. If you are injured in a large truck accident, we can help.

Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.

Call (617) 367-2900 – NO FEE UNLESS SUCCESSFUL

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