Each summer, more than half of all Americans take a road trip of some length, either to the next county over or across the country. During the summer months, commerce picks up as people open their wallets to make fun, summer-related purchases. The increased traffic and nationwide shopping boost add up to an increased number of semi-trucks on the nation’s highways. With more big rigs comes a higher risk of truck accidents.
If you are planning a summer road trip, then the first thing you should do is think about how to drive safely around semi-trucks. Carter Mario Law Firm is all about helping our communities and clients stay safe, which is why we would like to share some semi-truck safety tips for the summer right now.
Don’t Drive Directly in Front of a Semi-Truck
The first thing that you should know about semi-trucks and 18-wheelers is that they are heavy. The federal weight limit on most commercial trucks is 80,000 pounds, which is about 20 times heavier than the average passenger vehicle. The heavier weight of a semi-truck affects the vehicle in a few ways, but the most prominent change is that it will take the truck much longer to come to a complete stop. It is simple physics: the heavier an object that is in motion, the more force that is required to stop it.
When driving around semi-trucks on the highway, be mindful that a truck will need much more open road to stop safely than you do. If you see a gap in front of a big rig that looks like it could fit several cars, don’t try to take advantage of what other drivers are seemingly missing. Leave that space clear, because the truck driver will need it if they suddenly have to hit the brakes.
Stay Out of Semi-Truck Blind Spots
You know that your vehicle has blind spots that make changing lanes, merging, and turning a little bit stressful. You have to carefully check those spots as best you can to reduce the risk of a crash. But did you know that semi-trucks have massive blind spots? In fact, a big rig has a large blind spot on all four sides, including the front and back.
The four semi-truck blind spots are:
- Front: The first 20 feet or so in front of a semi-truck is a blind spot to the truck driver. This space should always be kept clear.
- Back: A truck driver who is hauling a large trailer cannot see directly behind the trailer, even with the extra mirrors on the sides of the cab. On average, the back blind spot of a semi-truck extends 30 feet directly behind. Following a semi-truck too closely will place you in this blind spot, which could result in an accident if the truck driver has to hit the brakes or back up for any reason.
- Left: The left blind spot of a semi-truck begins at the lefthand side mirror and extends backward into the next lane. It is roughly the size of a sedan. Although it might seem unusual, when you are driving on the left side of a big rig, it is actually safer for you to stay near the back of the trailer, rather than right up against the driver’s side door.
- Right: The biggest and most dangerous blind spot on a semi-truck is the one on the right side. It extends from the righthand door of the cab and goes outward and backward into adjacent lanes. Typically, a truck’s right blind spot covers at least two lanes and grows slightly the further away it gets from the mirror.
How can you be certain that you aren’t driving in these blind spots if they are so large and varied? An easy trick is to look for the truck driver in the side mirror. If you cannot see them in the mirror, then they can’t see you. Truck drivers can’t look over their shoulders to check for blind spots, so you both have to rely entirely on those mirrors to stay safe.
Only Pass Semi-Trucks on the Left
In general, passing on the left is advised. When passing a semi-truck, passing on the left is required, though.
As mentioned, the blind spot on the right side of a semi-truck is large enough to hide two or more vehicles. If you try to pass on this side, you will be invisible to the truck driver for most of the maneuver. If you pass on the left side, though, you will only have to move through a much smaller blind spot, which makes you invisible for much less time. When you have a choice, always choose to pass a semi-truck on the left.
Watch for Loose Semi-Truck Cargo
Driving directly behind a semi-truck can be a bit dangerous, too. When you spot a semi-truck on the highway, look at its cargo to see if anything appears loose or otherwise unsecured. Cargo that falls off a trailer or flatbed will create a hazard for every vehicle that is following the truck.
To steer clear of loose cargo on the highway, do not follow a semi-truck too closely. By keeping a large gap between you and the truck, you will buy yourself more time if you need to maneuver to avoid anything that falls off or out of the trailer.
Drive Courteously & Defensively
The simplest way that you can drive safer around semi-trucks this summer is to drive courteously and defensively. Yield the right-of-way to trucks and other motorists alike. Obey all traffic laws. Check your mirrors often, so you are never surprised by the position of other vehicles. By following the basic driving rules that you already know, you can help keep everyone safe on the road.
From all of us at Carter Mario, we hope you have a safe and happy road trip this summer, wherever your destination is! If you have any questions about filing or managing a truck accident claim, then please feel free to contact our firm at any time.