Although trucking accidents do not occur as frequently as passenger vehicle accidents, the Fatality Rate per 100 Million Vehicle Miles Traveled is considerably higher (2.4 as opposed to 1.5 for all vehicles). Because of this, it is important for drivers to engage in certain measures to ensure their safety.
1. Make sure there is enough space between you and the truck
When sharing the road with large cargo vehicles, it is important to ensure there is sufficient space between you and the truck. In a sample study performed by the Department of Transportation, three major types of critical accidents that are caused by large trucks are
- Crossing over into another lane (32% of the time)
- Loss of control due to travelling too fast for conditions, cargo shift, poor road conditions, etc. (29%)
- Rear-end collisions due to insufficient braking distance (22%)
All of these can be avoided if sufficient space is given between your passenger vehicle and the truck.
2. Do not move abruptly and be sure to use your signals
Use the proper procedure to pass a large truck or cargo vehicle. Maintain a consistent speed while signaling before you pass. Do not cut off any large vehicle, including a truck or a bus. Since they require much more distance to stop in comparison to cars, forcing a large vehicle to stop quickly can result in fatal rear-end collisions. Newton’s Second Law of Physics holds:
Force = (Mass)*(Acceleration)
Thus the larger the mass, the larger the impact that results, and the more likelihood of serious injuries or fatalities.
3. Trucks have larger blindspots than cars
Tractor trailer and truck accidents, because of their massive size, have large areas of blindspots. If you cannot see a truck’s side mirrors, the truck driver cannot see you. One-third of all passenger car/truck crashes take place in the blind spots around a truck.
4. Observe a truck’s turn signals before trying to pass
If the truck appears to be changing lanes for a turn, check which way the driver is signaling before passing. Large or long trucks need to make wide turns and sometimes will go into the left lane for a right turn or vice versa.
5. Passing a truck requires more time
Trucks and other cargo vehicles are much larger and longer than cars and require more time to pass. It is best not to drive alongside a truck and should be avoided if possible.
6. Allow trucks to have the right of way
Large trucks and tractor trailers have low maneuverability and because of this, it is not easy for them to change lanes or bypass accidents or distractions on the side of the road. So if a truck is trying to change lanes or maneuver around an incident, let them have the right of way by taking your foot of the accelerator and slowing down. Additionally, water or dirt from their tires can spray your windshield and reduce your visibility.
7. Adjust your driving to the weather conditions
Especially in slick or low visibility weather conditions, be sure to slow down and take into account that other drivers will be driving at slower speeds as well. Based on information reported by the National highway Traffic Safety Administration, weather-related accidents account for 24% of vehicle crashes and 22% of crash injuries overall. A general rule of thumb to go by is to give a truck approximately 5 seconds of driving space in adverse weather conditions.
8. Drive defensively, not aggressively
According to AAA, aggressive driving behaviors are a factor in up to 56% of fatal motor vehicle accidents. It is best to steer clear of aggressive drivers, even aggressive truck drivers, and drive defensively.
9. Slow down in work zones
Work zone collision and accidents are more likely to happen during the day time, and almost one-third of fatal work zone collisions involve large trucks. Stay on alert and keep an eye out for construction and debris. It is best to take your time and be sure to have plenty of room between you and other vehicles.
10. Motorcyclists in particular should exercise more care around a large truck
Because of their deceptively small size, motorcycles can easily hide in a car’s blindspot, so for a truck or tractor trailer, it would be very easy to overlook. Additionally, because of the small size, a motorcycle may look farther away than it really is in a side mirror.
So unless you are absolutely sure a truck is not going to turn or change lanes, do not try to pass. If you do pass, do not linger next to the truck for too long.