Living Not Dying On the Highways Around Trucks
I cannot teach you common sense, however, if you will pay attention and learn the following tips, I and my brother and sister drivers will thank you for sure!
Use your turn signals well in advance of making a lane change or an exit.
Always use your headlights in adverse weather conditions.
If you are around large trucks, remember, if you cannot see the driver in their mirrors, they cannot see you.
If you are going to pass, do so quickly and never hang next to the truck’s tires in case one blows out.
Watch what is going on ahead of you as far as you can see, this way you can avoid having to take evasive maneuvers or slam on your brakes. Use your flashers if coming to a stop or slowing down radically; let those behind you have plenty of notice that something is going on ahead.
Limit your distractions. Do not watch movies or read anything other than glancing at your directions while driving.
Limit your cell phone use and use a head set.
Never cut off anyone especially large trucks. It can take a fully loaded semi a foot ball field length to come to a stop.
Avoid pulling in front of a truck when traffic may stop or slow down. By doing so, you take away the truck driver’s margin of safety and risk causing a crash. The trucking industry stresses the importance of safe following distance.
If a truck passes you, help the truck driver to pass safely by slowing down slightly to shorten the time required to pass. Never speed up. That is dangerous.
Never stop in the traffic area of a highway or interstate unless you have no other choice such as a back up or accident. If you have to stop on the roadway, pull onto the shoulder as far as possible to the edge of the shoulder. Watch for traffic before exiting your vehicle or get out of the passenger side. Use your flashers. The wind shear from a truck going by cannot only break your door off, but can also suck you into the highway under the truck.
Never tailgate a truck. Leave plenty of room between you and any other vehicle. Most of the accidents involving large trucks are either from tailgating a truck or cutting one off. Trucks have braking systems that slow the truck down without lighting the brake lights; if you are not paying attention, you can run up under the trailer. While there is some validity in you being able to ‘draft’ a truck to save fuel, the dangers are far greater than any fuel savings.
Make sure you are past a truck and trailer before moving back over in passing. Many people forget that the trailer is there and go under the center of the trailer.
If you see a truck in a turn lane where they will turn onto the street you are on, give them plenty of room even if it means you backing up a little for them to be able to clear you. Always stop at the broad white stopping line or a little behind it while you wait for a light to change or your turn to go through a stop sign.
If a trucker is backing into somewhere off of the street, stay back and give them plenty of room and do not dart in front of them. Wait patiently and the trucker will usually tell you when it is safe to go around. Never dart behind a backing truck either in your car or on foot!
Usually a truck who flashes their lights at you when you pass them is being courteous and telling you that you are clear to come over.
A trucker who blows their air horn might be annoyed at your actions or might be telling you that you have a problem of some sort with your vehicle…or your child pumped their arm and the trucker responded with the air horn to make them both smile.
Never follow a truck in bad weather too closely. The spray from rain or snow will blind you and the trucker will not be able to see you in the spray.
When you pass a truck, complete the pass as promptly as traffic conditions permit. If you linger alongside the cab, you may be in a position where the truck driver cannot see you in the mirrors. If the truck driver has to change lanes for any reason, your vehicle could be involved in a crash because you were in a position where the truck driver could not see you.
Signal and return to the right lane when you can see the bumper of the truck in your inside mirror. After passing, keep your speed up. Passing a vehicle and then slowing down is both dangerous and irritating.
When you meet a truck going the other way, keep as far to the right as you safely can for a greater margin of safety and to minimize wind turbulence.
If you follow a truck closely, you are driving blind. You can’t see around the truck and the truck driver can’t see you in the mirrors. Never follow a truck at a time interval of less than three seconds. To check your following distance, pick a landmark on the side of the road. When the rear of the truck passes that point, count “one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand” at a normal rate. If you pass the same point before you have finished counting “three-one-thousand,” you are following the truck too closely. If you edge out to the left to see if there is room to pass, you may find yourself face-to-face with an oncoming vehicle that you could have seen if you had been following at a safe distance.
You may hit a pothole or debris that the truck has safely passed over. If you are following too closely, you may be unable to avoid a rear-end collision with the truck or be struck by debris kicked up by the truck’s tires.
Never use your high beams when following a truck at night. The glare in the large side mirrors can blind the truck driver.
Avoid stopping too close behind a truck on an upgrade. If the truck rolls back when starting up, your vehicle could be damaged. Also, if you stop a little to either side of the truck, the truck driver will be able to see your vehicle in the mirrors.
Did you ever feel the back of your vehicle go up over the curb when you were making a right turn? On every vehicle, the rear wheels follow a shorter path than the front wheels. The longer the vehicle, the shorter the path followed by the rear wheels. This is called off-track. Off-track occurs on both left and right turns, but presents a greater safety problem on the right turns where a truck driver may have to first move to the left so the rear wheels won’t jump the curb.
Do not pass on the right of a truck that is approaching an intersection. If the truck driver makes a right turn, you could be caught between the truck and the curb.
If a truck driver slows, stops, signals or changes lanes, you may be sure that there is a good reason for it. Be alert. Slow down and hold your position. Don’t attempt to pass until you are certain that it is safe to do so.
Some trucks are required by law to stop at railroad crossings. Be alert and allow the truck driver to stop and to resume travel safely if no train is approaching. If a two lane road, do not pass until you make sure no train is coming.
The No Zone
Trucks, tractor-trailers, buses and recreational vehicles (RVs)—including motor homes, campers and travel trailers—are longer, higher and wider than other vehicles. They accelerate slowly and require greater stopping and turning distances. Plus, there are danger areas around these vehicles where crashes are more likely to occur. These areas are called No-Zones. No-Zones on the side, front and rear also include blind spots where your car disappears from the driver’s view. Learning the No-Zones can save your life!
Research shows that in 70 percent of fatal crashes involving big trucks and cars, cars are at fault. The percentage of accidents taking place in the No-Zone involving trucks and cars are: front-end accidents – 66 percent; left-side accidents – 10 percent; right-side accidents – 6 percent; and rear-end accidents – 18 percent.
No-Zones: Trucks, tractor-trailers, buses and RVs have big No-Zones on both sides, which are dangerous because these vehicles must make wide turns. These No-Zones or blind spots are much larger than your car’s blind spots. If you can’t see the driver’s face in his side view mirror, then he can’t see you.
Rear No-Zone: Trucks, tractor-trailers, buses and RVs have huge No-Zones directly behind them. The driver can’t see your car behind his vehicle and you can’t see what’s happening in traffic ahead of his vehicle. If the truck, bus or RV brakes or stops suddenly, you have no place to go and could crash into the vehicle’s rear-end. Always maintain a safe following distance.
No-Zone: You could get rear-ended by a truck, bus or RV if you cut in front too soon after passing the vehicle. If you cut in front and then suddenly slow down, truck, bus and RV drivers are forced to slam on their brakes. These vehicles need nearly twice the time and room to stop as cars. A truck and its tow vehicle may be as long as 65 feet and it may take you more than half a mile of clear road to pass. When passing, look for the entire front of the truck in your rearview mirror before pulling in front. And then, don’t slow down!
Wide Turns: Trucks, buses and RVs sometimes need to swing wide to the left or right in order to safely make a turn. They can’t see the cars directly behind or beside them. In fact, their blind spots may stretch up to 20 feet in front of the cab and approximately 200 feet behind the truck. Trying to squeeze between a truck, bus or RV and the curb, or another vehicle is an invitation to disaster.
Truck Drivers Are People Too!
Like everybody else, truck drivers want to avoid being involved in crashes. If you make a mistake, the truck driver will try to avoid a crash. However, an evasive maneuver in a truck can result in the truck driver crashing, even though you may get away unharmed. Remember that:
Trucks accelerate more slowly than cars.
Trucks need more room to maneuver safely.
In a panic stop, trucks need more stopping distance.
Because trucks are higher than they are wide, it is harder for the truck driver to safely take evasive action and can lay over if forced to swerve too quickly to avoid you.
Avoid the No-Zone (blind spots) around trucks.
Remember that the driver of that truck does not want to die anymore than you do and most likely has family too that they worry about that cares for them. There is not a truck driver in the world that gets up, starts driving and thinks "gee I think I will kill someone today using my truck as a weapon." Working together, we can all make the highways safer for everybody who uses them.