According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are nearly 400,000 crashes involving large trucks each year in the United States. These annually cause nearly 5,000 fatalities. Because studies have shown that nearly 70 percent of these crashes are caused by the actions of drivers in passenger vehicles and nearly 95 percent of deaths in these truck accidents are sustained by occupants in the passenger vehicles, we want to share the following tips to improve your chances of avoiding a serious or fatal accident with a large truck.
1. Never cut in front of a truck.
This actually would be a good rule to observe with all vehicles, but it is critically important when the other vehicle is a multi-ton truck. Trucks cannot stop on a dime. Because of their weight it also takes them longer to slow down. If you cut in front of a truck, you put everyone in your vehicle at risk. If you can’t see the complete cab, including headlights and front grill, in your rearview mirror, it is too soon to pull in front of the truck.
2. Be aware of a trucker’s blind spots and stay out of them.
Even though truckers typically have multiple rearview mirrors, the truck still has several blind spots, including a deep blind spot directly behind the trailer. If you are tailgating a trucker, you are in their blind spot. Many truckers have bumper stickers that read, “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” It’s the truth and you need to drive accordingly.
3. Make sure you have enough time to pass a truck before you pull out.
Check to see that the passing lane is clear, blink your lights, and then head out. Be aware that if you are passing a truck on an incline, the truck will slow down, but if you are passing a truck on a down slope, its weight will cause it to speed up and it may take longer for you to pass. You need to adjust your speed accordingly.
4. Keep to the far side of your lane when a truck passes you.
You can help the trucker out by decreasing your speed slightly allowing the truck to easily complete the pass. When a truck blinks its lights, it is a signal that the vehicle is going to return to your lane.
5. Don’t get up on a truck’s right side when it is signaling a right turn.
Trucks often have to move slightly into the left lane when making a right turn to avoid running into the right curb. Coming up on the right side of a truck at this time may cause your vehicle to be squeezed – a dangerous proposition.
6. Keep your cool and pay attention to highway traffic.
Aggressive driving and road rage cause some drivers to take dangerous chances around slower moving trucks. Keep control of your temper. It’s better to arrive a few minutes late, but alive. Nearly as dangerous are drivers who drift along lost in their thoughts or distracted by a cell phone. Keep your mind on the traffic around you, including trucks, motorcycles and other passenger cars. Be alert and attentive and you’ll have a better chance of reaching your destination safely.
7. Be patient when trucks are backing up and stay out from behind the trailer.
It may take several attempts for an 18-wheeler to back up to a dock and that can mean a blocked roadway. Stay calm and give the driver the time needed to complete this tricky maneuver. Never get behind the trailer – with your vehicle or on foot – because the driver has no way of seeing you.
8. Don’t hog the passing lane.
Often a truck traversing hilly terrain will use the momentum built up from going downhill to help the truck get up the incline ahead. That is, unless a thoughtless motorist is cruising along at a slower speed in the passing lane. Drive in the right lane unless you are actively involved in passing a vehicle. It’s just good driving etiquette.
9. Allow trucks to merge easily into traffic.
It is tough merging into traffic when you’re driving a heavily loaded, cumbersome 18-wheeler. It’s even more difficult when selfish motorists speed up to get past, not letting the truck merge. Be courteous and let trucks and buses merge smoothly into traffic. You’ll have opportunities to pass as you move on down the highway.
Remember truckers are like all other drivers. Some are excellent, careful, and courteous companions on the roadways. Others take chances, drive longer than they should without rest, and push their weight around with motorists. By following the tips in this article you will keep yourself and your family safer no matter which kind of drivers you encounter on the road. Be safe, drive safe – arrive alive.