Driving safely around large trucks such as semi-tractor-trailers is an important skill, particularly on crowded highways. Unfortunately, most victims of fatal accidents involving large trucks are not the truck drivers but those in passenger vehicles.
Dangerous Trucks, Damaging Crashes
A large truck is defined as any vehicle whose empty gross vehicle weight is 10,000 pounds or more. This means that even the smallest large trucks weigh approximately four to five times what the average sedan weighs. Simple physics states that the heavier the vehicle, the more force it will wield in a collision. When these collisions happen at high speed, the force is even greater.
While many large truck drivers are very safe and considerate, an accident can happen to anyone. When a large truck collides with a smaller vehicle, the occupants of the smaller vehicle almost always bear the brunt of the impact. See our article on common causes of Florida Truck Accidents for additional information.
According to law enforcement reports, there are more than 200,000 collisions involving a large truck and a passenger car each year. About 60 percent of these crashes are blamed on the car driver rather than the truck driver, so it is clear that drivers of passenger cars must be careful when driving around these larger vehicles.
The statistics regarding fatalities for passenger car occupants versus large truck occupants highlight this problem. In 80 percent of all car-truck crashes involving a fatality, the driver of the passenger car is killed.
Another problem with large trucks is that they do not handle the same way as a passenger car or a pickup truck. Truck drivers have true blind spots in which they cannot see a vehicle on either side of them. They also have more difficulty stopping quickly and must allow more distance for stopping than smaller vehicles.
Safety Rules Around Large Trucks
There are several large truck “safety rules” that can help passenger car drivers stay safe when driving around these bigger vehicles. These rules include:
- Be aware of the truck driver’s blind spots. Never hover beside a truck; either pass quickly and smoothly or fall behind. In addition, leave at least four car lengths between you and a large truck when you are following to avoid ice, salt and water spray that can blind you or damage your vehicle.
- When you pass a truck, maintain visual contact with the truck’s side mirrors. You should be able to see the driver. If you cannot, speed up or slow down quickly but safely in order to get around the truck.
- Slow down and move slightly to the right when being passed by a large truck.
- Be aware that if a large truck is pulling a trailer, the trailer may veer slightly to the right or left. Allow room for the trailer and pass quickly and safely if necessary.
- Do not try to pass a large vehicle on the right. Large trucks will often swing left before making a right turn, crushing the car as they swing back to the right.
- Try to avoid stopping behind a large vehicle on an incline. It is best to give large trucks plenty of room to turn, roll back or move slightly.
Following simple safety tips can help you stay safe and avoid an accident with a large truck.