The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that around 1 out of every 10 highway deaths involve a large truck, and about 68% of the people killed in these accidents were the occupants of smaller cars or passenger vehicles.
Unfortunately, many of these accidents could have been avoided if the drivers knew how to share the road safely. Although big and small vehicles follow the same driving laws, many forget that truck drivers face countless challenges whenever they sit behind the wheel. Long hours combined with poor maneuverability make the perfect recipe for disaster, and only defensive driving techniques can keep everyone safe.
If you want to reduce your chances of becoming involved in an accident, or if you simply want to help your fellow drivers have a positive experience, be sure to follow these safety tips.
1. Assume the Driver Can’t See You
Most car, truck, and van mirrors are designed to maximize your field of vision. In fact, you can adjust your mirrors in such a way that you can eliminate all (or most) of your blind spots.
However, larger trucks, trailers, and diesels don’t have such a luxury. Although these heavier vehicles do feature 8 to 10 mirrors to improve visibility, the sheer length of the vehicle means the driver will have blind fields rather than blind spots. Typical blind fields sit 10 feet in front of and 25 feet behind the truck. Additionally, blind fields may include the area diagonally back from the driver seat and the two traveling lanes to the right of the vehicle.
As a general rule, assume that if you can’t see the driver’s face (whether in the mirror or window), the driver likely can’t see you.
2. Don’t Shoot the Gap
If you don’t feel comfortable driving near large trucks, you might feel tempted to accelerate and put some distance behind you. Additionally, you may even try to pass as quickly as possible and slide into the next available gap in front of the truck. After all, you don’t want to hover in the driver’s rear blind spot, right?
But in your attempt to avoid and evade, you put yourself more at even greater risk than if you had stayed calmly in the same lane.
Big rigs and trucks need roughly three times the stopping distance than the average car. For safety purposes, truck drivers leave a large gap between themselves and the vehicle in front of them so they have adequate time to brake without rear-ending their fellow drivers. When you shoot quickly into that space, you not only limit the driver’s available stopping distance, but you also slip into the driver’s front blind field.
To stay safe, maintain consistent speeds and only accelerate when necessary. Give trucks plenty of room whenever you pass, and make slow, steady movements as you change lanes. Don’t forget to signal early so the truck driver has plenty of time to respond to your movements.
3. Exercise a Little Patience
Diesel engines are designed for power. They have the strength to haul thousands of pounds over long distances, and many trucks can easily achieve 120 mph on the open road. So why do trucks seem to mosey along at a consistent 75 mph, or even a mere 62 mph, when they clearly have plenty of space to go faster?
Due to safety regulations, many companies install speed limiters on their trucks. These limiters prevent the vehicle from traveling faster than their air brakes can safely handle, and they help drivers maintain more fuel-efficient speeds. Because of these limiters, drivers can’t accelerate their vehicles beyond their set threshold, no matter how much you honk your horn, curse out your window, or drive next to the bumper.
Consequently, if you’re ever stuck behind a big rig, exercise a little patience and remember that the driver is doing the best he or she can in the circumstances.
4. Pay Complete Attention
Truck drivers have a lot to manage as they travel. They have multiple mirrors that need constant checking. They have seemingly countless gauges that need monitoring. And if they’re driving in an unfamiliar area, they have a GPS system that needs watching. Although most drivers will do their best to keep track of their various systems, they will always have to divide their focus, and their response times may suffer as a result.
If you want to stay safe around large vehicles, you need to compensate for any shortcomings on the truck driver’s part and pay complete attention whenever you drive. Do not text or use your smartphone as you drive. Pull over if you need to plan your route via a navigation system. And turn down the volume of any music or movies that you have playing in your car.
Stay Safe on the Roads
When you follow these safety tips in conjunction with local and federal driving laws, you can significantly reduce risks and avoid hazards on the road.
However, even if you take extreme care whenever you drive, you may still encounter a reckless or neglectful driver on the road. Should you become involved in an accident with a large truck, reach out to a trucking accident lawyer to ensure you receive compensation for injuries and damages.