Safely Sharing the Road with Big Trucks
Big trucks are everywhere these days. With over 20 million trucks on the road, 4,000 people die every year from tractor-trailer accidents. In fact, about one in 10 traffic deaths occur due to collisions with large trucks. It is difficult to know precisely how many fatal collisions are due to fault on the part of the truck driver versus others, but according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, most fatal accidents are caused by the non-professional drivers.
While there may be little you can do to ensure that the professional truck drivers occupying the road are following federal laws, such as not driving fatigued and not violating their hours of service obligations (11 hours per day), there are some things you can do to keep your family safe.
WATCH FOR BLIND SPOTS
The old saying is true: “If you can’t see a truck’s mirrors, the truck driver probably can’t see you.” Of course, if you can see the mirrors, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the driver sees you.
Blind spots exist on a truck just like they do on a car, and for a trucker, blind spots can be worse. Directly behind the trailer is a blind spot, as is just behind the left side of the cab. The right side of the trailer, one lane over at a 45-degree angle, is also a blind spot. Another blind spot is to the right of the cab, just to the side – the driver can’t see a car due to the elevation of the cab and the lack of a mirror that shows vehicles right next to the front.
The best way to avoid blind spots is to limit the amount of time spent around a tractor-trailer. That means not following too closely and not traveling even with a semi-truck; it’s best to pass when available and stay out of the truck’s blind spots.
PLAN AHEAD AND DRIVE WITH A BUFFER
Tractor-trailer trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. All that weight can increase the time it takes a truck to stop after it recognizes a hazard, so while the truck driver should always leave him or herself an out, try to plan ahead and recognize that these large trucks cannot stop on a dime. Simply increase your following distance when behind a tractor-trailer for an increased zone of safety.
USE CAUTION WHEN PASSING
When passing a tractor-trailer, drive deliberately and choose a safe zone to pass while avoiding curves and hills. When finishing a passing maneuver, be courteous and give the truck plenty of room when returning to your lane.
Also, never pass a truck when it has its blinkers on. Trucks can’t maneuver as well as a smaller vehicle, so when they begin a lane change, they can’t react to a car that is trying to occupy the same space and pass the truck. It’s not safe to try to beat a truck to a space or a lane. Many smaller vehicles have been run off the road by being in a lane while passing while the truck driver was also switching lanes.
RESPECT THE DANGER
Most importantly, respect the danger that these large trucks pose to everyone on the road and drive attentively. While you can’t control the actions of a truck driver, by respecting the danger, you can maximize your changes for avoiding a tragedy. This means keeping your distance, being constantly aware of where the trucks are relative to your vehicle, and deferring to the truck whenever possible.
It is your responsibility to do what you can to keep you and your family safe on the road. Your actions are the only things you can control. Following these tips can lower the chances of an accident or a tragedy and can help keep you and your loved ones safe while you travel.