The highways are busier than ever – here are 9 tips for avoiding accidents with big trucks.
Although semi-trucks provide a much-needed service as they move goods from one city to another around the country, these large trucks can pose dangers to other motorists.
Most semi-trucks have 18 or more wheels and massive blind spots. These trucks can weigh up to 40 tons, making them harder to stop, maneuver, and turn than a passenger vehicle. When these behemoths strike a car, they can cause catastrophic damage.
Although truck drivers are specially trained and licensed, accidents involving these huge vehicles happen frequently – over 1,000 times a day. Often, accidents involving semi-trucks result from drunk driving, driver error, distracted driving, or fatigue. Because truck drivers drive long miles for up to 11 hours a day – and sometimes more – truck driver fatigue is a major factor that causes truck accidents.
While you can’t control the driving habits of others, you can follow these tips for safely sharing the road with semi-trucks.
1. Pay Attention to Semi-Trucks
Sometimes we get so used to seeing big trucks on the road that we forget the potential hazards they can pose. Drivers should pay special attention to semi-trucks. Here are some things you need to look out for:
- Cargo: It’s a good idea to be aware of a truck’s cargo and any signs of improper loading. For example, flatbed trucks typically carry oversized cargo. An accident can occur if a truck’s cargo isn’t properly secured. Drivers are required to display special signage, typically placed on the back of the truck, when transporting a hazardous load.
- Doors on a traditional 18-wheel truck: While driving close to a truck, keep an eye on the doors. All doors and closures should be securely shut. A door that is partly ajar or moves with the motion of the truck could indicate a dangerous condition. If you notice anything odd, get out of the truck’s way and see if you can find a way to signal the driver.
- Erratic driving: Does the driver weave between lanes? Is the truck getting too close to other vehicles? If you suspect the driver is drunk, distracted, or fatigued, get out of their way. You can either pass quickly or slow down and give the truck a lot of space.
- Direction and signals: The truth is that those large trucks can’t turn on a dime. They need a lot of room to make wide turns, and you don’t want to be in their blind spot. Be aware of a semi truck’s turn signals and give them the space they need to make turns.
2. Give Big Trucks Plenty of Room
Due to their large size, trucks need more room to maneuver on the road. As a driver of a smaller vehicle, you can make it easier for them by giving them more space. This includes:
- Never pulling over in front of a large truck: When you arrive at a stop sign or traffic light, you want to slow down gradually and provide plenty of room for the truck behind you to stop. With such heavy loads, semi-trucks need more space to come to a stop.
- Giving the truck room to change lanes: Drivers of smaller cars hate to be stuck behind a big truck. When you see a trucker turn on his signal, you might want to charge ahead to get in front of him. Don’t do it! You could unknowingly be putting yourself or someone else in danger. Instead, ease back, providing the truck plenty of room, and flash your headlights. You can always change lanes later if you need to.
- Providing plenty of room to turn: When a large truck signals a turn, expect the truck to swing wide. Hang back and provide plenty of room for the trucker to make their turn. You don’t want to be beside the truck and get hit.
- Giving the trucker time and space to move around: Big trucks can get stuck, especially on narrow city streets. They need extra space to maneuver. If you see a truck trying to make a turn or move in another direction, be patient. Give the larger vehicle space and time to extricate itself from the small roads and manage these tight turns.
You can help protect yourself and the truck driver by being cautious around semi-trucks and providing them the space they need to move around safely.
3. Beware of Blind Spots
Despite the advancement of technology, large trucks still have blinds spots that can render your car invisible to a truck driver. If you know where these blind spots are, you can avoid them. Here are some spots to avoid:
- The space immediately behind the trailer
- The space on either side of the truck
- The space immediately in front of the truck’s cab
Here’s a rule of thumb: if you can’t see the truck’s mirrors, the truck driver can’t see your car.
Even for the most careful drivers, it happens: you find yourself in a truck’s blind spot. You need to quickly and safely move out of the blind spot to avoid getting hit. You can do this by accelerating quickly and moving in front of the truck or by slowing down and getting far enough behind the truck that the driver can see you again.
4. Obey Traffic Laws
You must always obey traffic laws to remain as safe as possible. When a semi-truck is part of the equation, safe driving is even more important.
It’s a good idea to always pay attention to road signs and speed limits. Deviating from these rules puts you at a much higher risk of an accident. When you’re speeding, you’re unable to avoid hazards on the road. Driving through traffic lights or breezing through stop signs can also increase your risk of an accident.
Anytime you aren’t following the rules, your unpredictable behavior may contribute to an accident with a semi-truck.
5. Don’t Use Your Bright Lights
When you’re driving on a dark road, you probably turn on your bright lights so you can see better. However, if a big truck is in front of you, this isn’t a good idea. The bright lights reflected in the truck’s large mirrors can make it difficult for the driver to safely maneuver the truck. This makes an accident more likely.
6. Pass Quickly
When you need to pass a truck, never assume the truck driver knows you’re there. At some point as you’re passing the larger vehicle, you’re likely to end up in one of its considerable blind spots.
When passing the truck, move at a steady speed until you’ve passed it. If you return to the same lane as the truck, use your turn signals and ensure that you have plenty of space to get back over. Remember how much room it takes such a large, heavy truck to stop. You never want to cut off a semi-truck.
7. Always Use Turn Signals
When turning or changing lanes, your turn signals tell other drivers what you’re going to do. Other drivers, and particularly truck drivers, need that warning to make adjustments in their own driving. By using your turn signals and tapping your brakes, you can let a truck driver know early on what you intend to do, so they can slow down and create a larger buffer space between the two of you.
In many cases, a truck driver will give you space to move in front of them and let you know by flashing their lights. Truck drivers are usually happy to share the road with drivers who are considerate and alert. They want to avoid a collision as much as you do.
8. Don’t Tailgate
Your small car takes less space to stop, so you might not be too worried about running into the back of a truck. Don’t get complacent. In the event that a large truck does stop faster than you expected and you’re tailgating the larger vehicle, your car won’t fare as well as the truck.
Tailgating can lead to something called an “underride collision,” in which a small vehicle ends up sliding under the back of the trailer. This frightening type of crash can cause serious injuries and extreme damage to the vehicle. Maintaining a safe following distance at all times can help you avoid being swept up in an underride collision.
9. Slow Down in Bad Weather
It becomes more difficult to safely maneuver your car when the weather is bad. When you lose control, it’s harder to regain it on wet roads with limited visibility. These risks are magnified for drivers of semi-trucks.
In bad weather, the chances of a truck accident significantly increase. The combined weight of the truck and its cargo make stopping on wet roads even more difficult. In high winds, empty trailers are prone to tipping over. Jackknifing, where the trailer moves in front of the cab, is another dangerous problem trucks are prone to, particularly in bad weather.
You can’t control the weather, but you can control how you respond to it. Using extra caution in inclement weather can help keep you out of a truck’s path and reduce the likelihood of a crash occurring.
When the Worst Happens, Hire a Truck Accident Attorney
Even following all of these tips doesn’t guarantee that an accident won’t happen. Sometimes, when a driver is distracted, driving under the influence, or rushing to meet a deadline, there isn’t anything you can do to avoid a crash.
If you or a loved one is in an accident with a large truck, contact a truck accident lawyer to protect your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.