Big trucks on the road make people sit up and pay attention. The sheer size of these vehicles makes them noticeable – which is a good thing, because that size has an impact that you may not be aware of.

Big rigs are, well, big. Fully loaded, these trucks can weigh upwards of 80,000lbs. That’s over 40 tons. When you take into to account that the average vehicle weighs about one (1) ton, it’s easy to see how a collision between the two can be catastrophic. Why it happens, however, is all about the physics of an accident.

From an early age, you were probably familiar with the classic image of Sir Isaac Newton lounging under an apple tree with a fruit suspended in midair, poised to knock the theory of gravity into existence alongside a slight lump on the scientist’s head. Newton also elaborated the Laws of Motion that dictate how objects behave in motion and during interactions, or for our purposes, collisions.

These laws tell us some fascinating things about collisions and the forces involved. For instance, a fully loaded big rig traveling 2mph has the same momentum as an SUV traveling 40mph. When these two collide, that energy has to go somewhere, and the reduction of speed means that the occupants experience a massive amount of force in an accident.

Extending the amount of time involved can reduce the amount of force experienced by the occupants of a vehicle in a crash. That’s why crumple zones and airbags are so vital to saving lives. The large change in velocity over a very short period of time results in a large net force. Newton’s laws mean that that large force is equal to the force before the collision; namely, the same power it took to get a large SUV to travel 40mph is the same force you’ll feel when it slams to a stop. It’s a lot of power.

Big rigs themselves aren’t inherently dangerous, but their sheer size makes them a formidable obstacle. Head-on collisions with big rigs can actually be more dangerous than a head-on collision with a brick wall. Additionally, big rig drivers are on the road for long hours, and distraction and exhaustion can result in accidents that can pulverize any other car on the road.

Safety and awareness are key, but they’re not always enough to prevent a collision. When accidents happen, it’s important to have knowledge and experience on your side. If you or someone you know has been involved in a commercial truck collision, please contact Rocky McElhaney Law Firm for a free consultation.