18 tips to prevent accidents when sharing the road with big trucks
Sharing the road with big trucks (i.e. tractor-trailers or commercial trucks) is very different from driving near a passenger car, and many motorists don’t adjust their behavior. Below are some safety tips designed to help you avoid becoming involved in a truck accident.
When sharing the road with big trucks it’s important to:
- Do not abruptly change lanes around a truck.
- Let trucks have the right of way by slowing down.
- Drive at a safe speed.
- Adjust your speed according to weather conditions.
- Be aware of traffic signals and road conditions.
- Always use turn signals.
- Avoid driving next to a tractor-trailer or a truck.
- Never cut-off large trucks, especially when they may need to stop.
- Trucks and tractor-trailers have large blind spots called “no zones,” so follow the rule that if you cannot see the truck driver in his outside mirrors, then he probably can’t see your vehicle.
- Use low-beam headlights when following large trucks at night.
- When sharing the road with big trucks ensure you maintain at least a minimum four-second following distance from a truck.
- When passing, remember that large trucks are much longer than automobiles and take a longer time to pass.
- When sharing the road with big trucks ensure you maintain a constant speed when passing and make sure you can see the front of the truck in your rear-view mirror before moving in front of the truck.
- When being passed by a tractor-trailer, slow down slightly, as water or dirt from its tires can spray and reduce your visibility.
- Be careful when passing large trucks that are also pulling a trailer, as the trailer could swing in your lane.
- Do not try to squeeze into the space next to a semi-truck when it’s making a turn, because it could hit you or even drive over the top of your car.
- When traveling on the highway, try not to position your car in between two or more large trucks, as they may not see you and pull into your lane, forcing you into another vehicle.
- If you are stopped behind a tractor-trailer on an incline, leave space in between in case the truck drifts backward when it starts to accelerate.
Fatal truck crashes involving passenger vehicles
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2017,” which provides the most up-to-date crash data available, reports the following for 2013-2017 across the country:
- Fatal truck crashes involving passenger vehicles increased from 26,024 to 29,769
- Passenger vehicles involved in fatal truck crashes increased from 34,886 to 41,017
- Passenger vehicle occupants killed in fatal truck crashes increased from 21,224 to 23,551
(Source: FMCSA, Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts, 2017 edition, Trends Table 5 Passenger Vehicle Fatal Crash Statistics)
Similarly, Michigan Traffic Crash Facts report the following about Michigan truck crashes involving passenger vehicles between 2014 and 2017:
- Total crashes increased from 9,070 to 9,862
- Fatal crashes increased from 68 to 72
- Injury crashes increased from 1,897 to 2,285
(Source: Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, 2014-2017, Vehicle/Driver, Heavy Truck, “Vehicle Types Involved in Crash with Heavy Truck/Bus”)