5 Tips for Sharing the Road with Semi-Trucks
Whether you are out on the highways this summer for a long road trip or just a drive across town, be aware of semi trucks near you and the dangers they can present to automobiles and other smaller vehicles.
The average semi truck weighs between 30,000 pounds and 40,000 pounds compared to just over 4,000 pounds for the average car. If in an accident with a large truck, auto drivers and their passengers are more likely to be injured or die. In the over 4,000 fatal crashes involving large trucks and cars in 2018, 67% of those who died were in automobiles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Only 16% were truck drivers or their passengers. Large trucks were involved in 107,000 injury crashes in 2017, says the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Semis require larger turning radiuses, take a longer time to slow down, and have larger blind spots. Watch out and follow these tips to stay safe and avoid an accident.
- Drive defensively and keep a safe distance – No matter how long you have been driving, it’s important to pay attention, particularly when near a semi. Watch the vehicle’s location in the lane, look for blinkers, be aware of other nearby traffic, and consider the weather’s impact on the road and truck driver’s ability to react.
Keep a safe distance, whether you are in front of, behind or next to a semi. You want to be far enough away that you can safely react to a truck tire blowout, sudden stop, or swerve due to high wind. Generally, you should be no closer than a four-second following distance behind a large truck. Be especially mindful when a truck is turning as semis need a wide berth.
- Don’t cut off a large truck – Semis require a larger stopping distance, somewhere between one and two football fields depending on the truck’s speed. To avoid being rear-ended by a truck, make sure you can see the entire front of the truck from your rearview mirror before merging in front of it.
- Avoid the truck’s blind spots – Make sure the driver can see you in the truck’s side mirrors. If you cannot see the driver from the truck’s mirrors, then the driver cannot see you. The right side of a semi has the largest blind spot for the driver, followed by the front of the cab and behind the trailer.
- Pass quickly – When passing a semi, make sure not to linger beside it and leave plenty of room between you and the front cab when changing lanes. It’s best to always pass a truck on its driver’s side, as that is where the driver has the best visibility. Remember to use your signals so the driver can anticipate your moves and react accordingly. Since trucks take longer to stop or slow down, make sure to signal at least 3 seconds before making a move in order to allow the driver time to react.
- Dim your brights and always use your blinkers – When driving at night, be sure to dim your bright lights when passing or near a truck. The reflection of bright lights on large truck mirrors can blind the driver.
While semis and other large trucks do represent a hazard on the road, taking precautions can help ensure your safe arrival.
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