Big-rig truckers often get flack for being slow lane hogs that can’t get out of their own way. But most of that perception is in the minds of drivers who don’t understand the limitations of semi-trailer trucks, and that lack of understanding costs precious lives each year.
Studies have shown that most traffic accidents involving a car and a truck are caused by the driver of the car. They occur because passenger car drivers fail to stay in their lane, drive in a truck’s blind spot, drive too fast for the conditions, fail to obey signs or signals, don’t yield the right of way or are simply not paying attention.
Whoever is at fault, when a car and truck collide, it’s the occupants of the car who are more often killed than those in the truck — so if you’re in the smaller vehicle, it pays to give the big guy more leeway. At CollsionMax, our autobody shop sees the damage that is done to cars who are involved in auto collisions with trucks. This is why we understant the danger that comes from cars who flit around trucks like bees around a flower, unaware that trucks have big blind spots to either side, behind, and even in front. Another common misconception is that big rigs can stop, accelerate, and maneuver like cars. The fact is they can’t. Big rigs require more time to get up to cruising speed, more time to stop, and more space to turn than passenger cars. It shouldn’t take a physics professor to understand that.
Tailgating any vehicle is dangerous, but it is particularly unsafe to follow a large truck too closely. The closer you are to the rear of a truck, the more likely you are to hit it. By keeping your distance, you will have a better view of the road, upcoming traffic signals, signs and exits. Truck wheels may throw up rocks or water if it’s raining, so stay farther back to avoid this problem.
When stopping behind a big rig, remember that it may need space to roll back when it starts up again, especially on a hill. If you can position your vehicle slightly to the left of your lane, truckers will know you’re behind them and can take precautions.
Just Passing Through
Always pass on the left side of a truck. Remember, you need to see the trucker’s mirrors to be sure he can see you. When passing a large vehicle, wait until you are well ahead of it to pull back into the lane. Don’t pull back into the truck’s lane until you can see the truck’s headlights in your rear-view mirror. The longer the truck, the more distance you will need to pass it. Sometimes it’s hard to tell how long a truck is from behind. Don’t pass unless you’re absolutely sure there is enough room.
Just like automobiles, the first rule of safety with trucks is see and be seen. Trucks have large blind spots on both sides, directly behind and close in front. Stay away from those areas as much as possible. If you’re driving behind a truck and you can’t see one of its side-view mirrors, the truck driver can’t see you. Remember, when sharing the road with large trucks, the bigger they are:
• The larger their blind spots.
• The longer it takes them to stop.
• The more distance you need to pass them.
• The more room they need to maneuver.