When Should Stopped Trucks Use Flashers in Virginia?
Trucks pose serious hazards to other drivers in Virginia when they are parked or backing up. As such, truckers must use their hazard warning lights or other safety devices when they are stopped. A recent lawsuit highlighted the potentially-disastrous implications of failure to obey this law.
Virginia Lawyers Weekly highlighted details of an incident in 2017 that left a motorist with permanent injuries. Just before dawn on Nov. 1, 2017, a trucker was attempting to make a delivery to a store. The report noted his tractor-trailer completely blocked all lanes of a four-lane divided highway in one direction of travel. The trucker failed to deploy any safety device such as flashers to warn approaching drivers apart from the flashing the headlights of his cab.
A 52-year-old driver who was approaching the unloading truck saw the flashing headlights but believed the trucker was alerting him to a nearby police speed trap. The report noted the flashing headlight rendered him unable to see the large tractor-trailer blocking the road ahead of him. The driver and the tractor-trailer collided, leaving the car driver with severe, permanent injuries. Medics airlifted him to VCU Medical Center where he was treated for injuries including a fractured and dislocated hip, broken ribs, concussion, and pneumothorax.
Evidence later emerged that the store manager previously warned the trucker it was potentially dangerous to block all lanes by the store. Lawyers for the injured car driver claimed the trucker failed to keep a proper lookout, failed to keep his vehicle under proper control, and failed to yield the right-of-way. The truck driver claimed contributory negligence on the behalf of the car driver.
Virginia Lawyers Weekly reported the parties were brought together for a mediation hearing via a Zoom video conference on March 30, 2020, with Hon. Thomas S. Shadrick serving as the mediator. After an ongoing mediation, they settled the case for $1,444,000. The injured motorist was represented by attorneys Jeffrey A. Breit from Virginia Beach; Elliott Buckner from Richmond, and Kevin Biniazan of Virginia Beach.
Light and Safety Device Laws When Commercial Trucks are Stopped
Big rigs are the most dangerous vehicles on the roads. Even at low speeds, impacts with trucks can be devastating for the other driver. Trucks loading and unloading or parked by the side of the interstate pose serious risks to other drivers.
Under federal regulations, the driver of a commercial vehicle that is on the highway or shoulder for a reason other than a necessary traffic stop, “must turn on the vehicle’s hazard warning system, which is to be left on until the vehicle’s external warning devices are in position.” Stopped trucks should routinely use flashers in Virginia and elsewhere.
The driver must also put on the truck’s flashing lights when the warning devices are picked up before the vehicle moves on. Truckers must carry warning triangles, fuse flares or liquid burning flares.
Federal rules set out where and when a driver must place these devices when stopping on the highway. It states:
Warning devices (warning triangles, fuse flares, or liquid-burning flares) must be put down within 10 minutes in three locations:
- One on the traffic side, four paces (about 10 feet) from the vehicle, in the direction of the oncoming traffic;
- One device must be placed in the middle of the traffic lane or on the shoulder, 40 paces (about 100 feet) from the commercial vehicle, in the direction of approaching traffic; and,
- One in the center of the traffic lane or on the shoulder, 40 paces (approximately 100 feet) from the rig, in the direction away from the approaching traffic.
Drivers who use flares must make sure at least one flare remains lit at every location for the whole time that the vehicle is stopped.
Lack of Parking for Trucks and Big Rigs
Trucks stopping on highways remain a problem in Virginia, particularly on major trucking routes like I-81 and I-95. The Virginia Truck Parking Study published by the Virginia Department of Transportation pointed to a lack of parking in the state for big rigs, a problem that places other drivers in danger.
The study conducted in 2013 and 2014 noted the demands placed on truckers including long hours at night and congested highways cause trucker fatigue.
The study noted truckers cannot always find places to park at rest areas or commercial truck stops. They may end up parking their rigs on shoulders or the road, ramps, mainlines, and other “undesignated locations.” Surveys pointed to a serious shortage of truck parking in Virginia, with the most significant problems reported in Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia, and Southwest Virginia. It stated parking challenges and shortages of places to park in adjacent states, especially close to state borders, affect truck parking in the Commonwealth.
Many truckers do not know where available parking exists, and truck parking is often at capacity when they arrive. Closures or restrictions on rest stops associated with the COVID-19 pandemic may exacerbate the situation. Shippers and receivers have scheduled delivery and pick-up times and are inflexible. They seldom allow trucker parking, the study found. More than 70% of truckers told the researchers that overnight truck parking is a personal safety concern. They said federal Hours of Service (HOS) regulation changes meant more stops are necessary and it is difficult to plan their stops and routes, particularly on congested highways.
Accidents involving big rigs are often serious and deadly. If you have been hurt in an accident involving an improperly stopped truck or any other wreck with a commercial vehicle, please contact our Virginia trucking accident attorneys as soon as possible.