Did you know 75 percent of commercial vehicle accidents are caused by drivers in passenger cars? While actions like distracted driving certainly play a role in some of these cases, there are likely multiple occasions that happen simply because drivers don’t understand how to safely maneuver around large vehicles.
Though sharing the road with semis is a daily task, not all motorists understand the limitations of a semi — mainly wide turning radiuses, slow stopping times and large blind spots. To help educate the general public on safe driving techniques, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) started a highway safety program called Share the Road. Using some of the ATA tips and our own, we’ve compiled a list of driving habits that will help make the road a safer place.
Seven tips for motorists sharing roads with semis
Roadway safety is the responsibility of all drivers, but you can take certain steps to ensure you’re doing your part. When driving near or around a semi-truck, be sure to:
Drive defensively Operating a vehicle probably comes second nature to you. But, no matter how comfortable or skilled you are behind the wheel, it’s important to remain alert at all times — especially around large trucks. Semis are bigger in size and weight, making them slower to react to avoid collisions. Pay attention to vehicle locations, traffic flow, vehicle signals and weather so you can anticipate problems and have plenty of time to safely change course if necessary.
Keep a safe distance Driving close to a semi puts you at greater risk for being hurt by sudden stops, tire blowouts or roll overs caused by strong wind. So, whether you’re behind, in front or beside a large truck, leave plenty of space for merging, swerving and maneuvering. It’s best practice to keep at least a four-second following distance between you and the trailer in case of a sudden stop.
Avoid blind spots The right side of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is the largest blind spot for a truck driver — sometimes blocking their view for three or more lanes. Other areas of concern include directly in front of the cab, behind the trailer and certain zones along the driver’s side. Avoid spending time in these zones to ensure the driver can see you.
Pass quickly Passenger vehicles typically travel faster than semis, so it’s not unusual to pass a lot of trucks along your route. Practice safe passing by driving closer to the shoulder rather than the truck, and speeding up instead of lingering.
Don’t cut a large truck off Semis have much longer stopping distances — up to two football fields when traveling 65 mph. To prevent a rear-end collision, make sure you can see the entire front end of the truck before merging in front of it.
Dim the bright lights When traveling near or past a semi, make sure your bright headlights are dimmed. Bright lights reflecting off large truck mirrors can cause two seconds or more of temporary blindness when traveling at 55 mph. The general rule of thumb is to lower your bright lights when you’re one block (or closer) behind a semi.
Always signal As mentioned, trucks require more time to react to motorists stopping, turning or merging lanes. Because of this, it’s important to signal the driver at least three seconds or more before upcoming changes. This timing allows the truck driver to slow down or move over.