Safely Driving Around Big Trucks

Safely driving around big trucksMany large trucks have the rear-end warning explaining, “If you cannot see my mirrors, I cannot see you.” Seems simple enough, however accidents caused by drivers’ blind spots are more common than many realize – and can result in deadly consequences for the driver in the passenger vehicle. Knowing tips for safely driving around big trucks is a pivotal component to staying out of harm’s way on the highways and back roads.

The following explores the dangers of large truck accidents, as well as tips to stay safe and avoid accidents.

If you recently sustained injuries in an accident involving a large tractor-trailer and would like to discuss your rights concerning a possible lawsuit, please do not hesitate to contact truck accident attorney Michael Saile today by calling 215-642-2335

Dangers of large trucks

In 2012, 3,802 large trucks were involved in fatal accidents – representing a five-percent increase from data collected in 2011 – according to statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). However, data (also from FMCSA) spanning a ten-year period from 2002 through 2012 revealed that large truck accidents have fortunately declined, with a fatality rate decrease of 17 percent and an injury-only rate decrease of 18 percent.

While these declines are encouraging, the number of injuries reported involving tractor-trailers continues to reach the tens of thousands annually and the dangers of large tractor-trailers simply cannot be understated. 

Beginning with the obvious, large trucks are just that – large. In other words, large trucks carrying several tons of cargo, combined with the truck’s weight standing alone, are simply not capable of stopping on a dime or maneuvering similar to a passenger vehicle. Other characteristics rendering trucks exceptionally dangerous on the roadway include: 

  • Improperly loaded cargo that may shift in transit
  • Untrained or inexperienced drivers
  • Mechanical failure
  • Falling debris (e.g., from a dump truck or uncovered trailer)
  • Lack of inspection

What are the dangers of squeeze play accidents?

A “squeeze play” accident occurs when the passenger of a passenger car misunderstands a truck driver’s intentions. As a general principle, the larger the truck, the wider its radius when making sharp turns at an intersection. This issue can be especially problematic when a truck turns right at an intersection, as it most often must swing left into the next lane to allow enough room to clear the curb.

When this happens, drivers often assume the truck driver is changing lanes and may attempt to pass the truck on the right side, only to be “squeezed” between the truck and the curb as it finally starts to swing right.

Sometimes, squeeze play accidents result in minimal injury or damage to property only. Other times, drivers can sustain severe or fatal injuries as a result. 

Because of these severe injuries, as well as the possibility of massive property damage to your car, it is important to take precautions when driving behind or adjacent to trucks on the road. According to FMCSA’s Share the Road Safely program, mindful drivers can avoid a squeeze play situation by paying “attention to truck signals, and [giving] them lots of room to maneuver.”

How can I avoid truck accidents?

Remember the steps to safety when driving around big trucks.Never drive in a truck’s blind spots

Trucks have four notoriously large blind spots, or No-Zones – the front, back, and both sides of the truck – that pose a grave danger to adjacent motorists. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has implemented efforts to curtail the instance of blind spot accidents, including conducting several studies as to the effectiveness of blind spot avoidance technology. 

To avoid these No-Zones, always be sure to keep a safe following distance between you and the truck. If a truck behind you is following you too closely, pull over or change lanes and allow the driver to pass. It may be annoying to have to accommodate an aggressive and dangerous driver, but remember that your safety is on the line.  

When passing a truck, do not linger in the truck’s blind spots. Speeding up to a reasonable speed in order to overtake the truck quickly can help avoid lingering. Announce your intention to pass a truck by signaling before making the pass.

Do not tailgate a truck

Tailgating is always dangerous, but even more so when an 18-wheeler is involved. There are two ways in which tailgating can lead to a serious accident, beginning with the scenario in which the passenger vehicle is tailgating the large truck. When motorists tailgate trucks, they run the risk of having insufficient time to stop should the truck need to brake abruptly. As well, traveling this closely behind a large truck could expose the car driver to a heightened risk should any debris fall from the trailer. 

Alternatively, and for the same reasons, truck drivers should refrain from tailgating motorists, as a rear-end collision could quickly lead to catastrophic injuries and death. When driving under 40 mph, truck drivers should allow one second per 10 feet of the truck’s length. An additional second per 10 feet should be added for speeds above 40 mph. In extreme weather conditions, this number should be doubled to allow sufficient braking distance.

Do not cut off a truck

Never cut off a truck; it could be the most dangerous thing you will ever do. A truck going 65 miles an hour will take over 300 feet to stop; if you cut the truck off and need to stop abruptly, there is a very good chance that the driver will be unable to stop in time and may run your car over entirely.

In addition to not having enough time to stop, cutting off a truck can be dangerous because if you end up in the truck’s front blind spot, there is a chance that the driver may not even see you at all.

Cordisco & Saile LLC

For more information about safe driving and truck accidents, feel free to check out our truck accident blog. If you were unable to avoid a truck accident, please contact Cordisco & Saile LLC to schedule a free consultation at 215-642-2335