How do people

…manage to drive into the back of a huge, highly-visible tractor trailer that is parked on the shoulder of a highway, during daylight, and during good weather conditions?

There was one of these incidents today, on an interstate highway in NJ, and this is far from the first incident of its kind.
Sadly, the driver of the vehicle that hit the parked tractor trailer died, so there is no possibility of interviewing him, but I am frequently amazed at how often this type of thing happens–nationwide.

It just seems to me that, if you are paying attention to your driving tasks and are not playing with a cellphone or other device, a HUGE tractor trailer on the shoulder should be…avoidable. How can one explain this phenomenon?

Interstate driving puts some in a trance where they only stare straight ahead, and many rivers drift over the lane lines both left and right pretty regularly if you watch them from behind. If any of us care to admitt it, we have too. It is no excuse, but it has happened to all of us and we were lucky not to have a tractor trailer rigged parked there…even with the lights flashing. Maybe, because Everyone has a blind spot and unless you continually scan from side to side, the eye on that side could miss a parked vehicle. Add to that wherethedriver just looks up and down and not side to side while texting or playing with a radio or infotainment unit… I Can " see it happening.

@Dagosa is right and then there is inattentive drivers and drivers trying to text, change their clothes, eat their Big Mac, read some report, do their make-up, make out their shopping list, etc. etc. etc.

I find it harder to believe when, someone rear ends a squad car with it’s lights on and clips…or God forbid…kills a cop, assisting a driver on the side of the road.


The others could be correct, but it could also go back to the story posted recently about people running out in front of semi drivers to commit suicide.

How do people…
…manage to drive into the back of a huge, highly-visible tractor trailer that is parked on the shoulder of a highway, during daylight, and during good weather conditions?

Well, maybe talking on the phone while drunk, and changing radio stations, while trying to light a smoke?
Aintcha ever multi-tasked fer cryinoutloud?

On the local news last night another OK state trooper is in the hospital after being rammed by a motorist while the trooper was on the shoulder citing someone else or something. As the Brits would say, the motorist made a right hash of the trooper’s car.

I think what happens sometimes is that a motorist gets so focused on a roadside vehicle that there is a disconnect in which everything but the truck or car in question fades out.

An analogy could be what some ground attack military pilots did and often with fatal results. They would develop “target fixation” and were so intent on shooting the target up that they would literally fly right into the target or the ground as everything but the target was in the netherworld.
Moth to the flame so to speak.

When I was teaching ny daughter to drive, I kept telling her to be alert because cars appear out of nowhere. and I consider myself an attentive driver but cars still do sometimes come out of nowhere.

Based on observations of people driving RIGHT up TO (50 feet or so) a lane closure and only then looking for a spot to merge over, I concluded that many people don’t look more than 50 feet in front of their vehicle while driving. These same people rarely look side-to-side either. These are the folks who drill stopped semis or change lanes UNDER them.

Drivers don’t seem to be taught the tools of situational awareness.

You could well be correct about this particular accident, as well as similar ones each year, @Mustangman.

When he was in high school, my brother had a friend (Nino) who came to class one day with a revelation about driving. After driving for a few months exactly as his father had told him to do (“always watch the road, son”), he suddenly realized that he wasn’t supposed to be focusing strictly on the 20 feet of pavement directly in front of the car’s hood.

IIRC, he told my brother something along the lines of…If you look a block or two ahead, you can see if there are cars coming!

My brother had never considered this guy to be very bright, so Nino’s “epiphany” wasn’t too shocking. All my brother could say was…I’ll have to remember that…

How this guy managed to stay out of harm’s way for the first few months that he drove is… miraculous.
Thank God that he didn’t kill somebody.

Heads-Up driving is taught by any good driving school for teens to the elderly. For those teens taught by the football coach at high school (do they still DO that??) or by some college student earning a few bucks teaching driving part time, I don’t think they really get that. Since many of their parents suffer the same malady, they generally don’t get any instruction in that skill.

That’s why programs like this Street Survival School sponsored by Tire Rack is so important

Or programs like this from racer Skip Barber;

I sometimes think I should be looking further ahead, but due to our crumbling infrastructure it’s often necessary to focus on the road just ahead so that I can pick the best line through the potholes and other pavement damage. It was nice to drive in Germany where you can safely assume that the pavement is in good shape.

I read an article several decades ago in a trade publication about why European roads are better than U.S. roads and assume the story is true.

It stated that in Europe when building a highway they will overturn and pack 3-4 feet of dirt as a bed for the pavement.
In the U.S. it’s often 18" or so and which leaves a lot of mushy ground underneath. The Euro method is said to be about 15% more costly originally but pays for itself long term.

What grates on me about road repair around here is that they will spend weeks tearing it up, repaving it, etc on say a 3 mile stretch and the fresh end is junk before they finish the other end and take down the construction signs.

WI has had it’s fair share of stupid issues. The interstate, made 3 lane, but pulled money for the whole project so goes from 3 lane, to 2 lane, then back to three lane. Welcome to wisconsin, here is your bottleneck. Then a major road, they resurfaced last year and plan n tearing it up entirely in 3 years. Gotta keep the orange barrels somewhere I suppose.

Yes compacting the soil is part of the expense of a new road, earthwork is expensive. We still have some cobblestone (ie brick paver) streets from the late 18 and early 1900’s, maybe the romans knew something afterall.

Another reason German roads are so good is because the motorist can sue the government for damage to their car from unfilled potholes.

@Mustangman You can do that here in the US as well.

In California the Highway Patrol guy always talks to you through the riders window, not the drivers side. It makes a lot of sense, and I’ve never understood why any police would do it any other way.

Anything that can happen, will happen, and it just did.

@wentwest, I’d sure like to see someone that successfully sued for a damages caused by a pothole in the US. That would make my week. Places like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania should be scared!

It happens all the time in NYC, Mustangman!

In NYC, just like in most jurisdictions, you must proceed under the terms of The Tort Claims Act, and the City Comptroller’s website has the downloadable claims form. From what I recall, it takes about 3 months to be reimbursed, but it is actually not that difficult if somebody correctly wades through…the paper chase.