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Sharing the Road with Trucks

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author photo by Autotrader October 2007

While heavy trucks account for about three percent of vehicles on the road, they compose nearly nine percent of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes, and furthermore, truck-involved crashes account for about 12 percent of lost lives.

Why? Often, car drivers don't understand the limitations of trucks, and treat them as they would any other car on the road. While the laws of physics say that the tremendous weight of commercial trucks (some as much as 45 tons!) makes it especially hard for them to change direction quickly, the laws of physics also say that you, as the driver of a car, SUV, or light truck, have better accident-avoidance abilities. Common sense also says that it will hurt a lot more if you're involved in a crash with a big rig, so bear some responsibility, be cautious, and follow these tips:

Steer clear, when possible. Keep in mind that fully loaded trucks will take more than twice as long to stop as cars. Never cut closely in front of a truck and brake abruptly-this leads to the most common type of accident between a car and a big rig.

Leave space for trucks to turn. In the city, trucks need to swing wide in tight intersections. Leave room for them if you can by stopping short in left turn lanes, and never try to cut inside between the curb and a slow, turning truck.

Don't tailgate. Tailgating behind trucks is a major cause of accidents, because the truck driver just can't see the car behind. Stay a minimum of two car lengths behind trucks in the city, and in high-speed highway driving use the four-second rule as an absolute minimum. Remember that if you can't see the truck driver's face in the mirror, he or she probably cannot see you.

Use extreme caution in passing trucks. If you have any doubt about being able to make a safe pass, wait. Always pass on the left (a truck driver's blind spot on the right is much larger), and wait until you are well ahead of the truck until you change back to the right lane. If the roadway is wet, remember to turn on your wipers before passing, as the spray from the wheels will decrease your visibility.

Keep wide, and keep to the right. Making a wide pass of the truck will help to minimize an air-turbulence effect that may try to suck you closer to the side of the truck. When you're not passing, keep to the right to minimize the effects of turbulence from oncoming trucks.

Mind the blind spots around the truck. This is extremely important. Trucks and buses cannot see cars that follow too closely from behind, or linger alongside the trailer. Drivers have an especially large blind spot on the right. If you suspect you're in a truck driver's blind spot, accelerate or decelerate immediately to a safer position. See www.nozone.org for more information from the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) on these deadly blind spots, termed the No-Zone.

Take advantage of truckers' point of view. Truck drivers have a longer field of vision of the road ahead than car or SUV drivers. If a truck on the road starts to slow down for no apparent reason, take caution-there may be trouble or congestion ahead.

Report reckless or fatigued truck drivers. Carin Michel, of the FMCSA, the federal agency that monitors the safety compliance of trucks, says, "The best thing you can do when you see a truck or driver that's obviously not safe is to write down the DOT number on the side of the cab, as drivers can't always be traced down to trailers or license plates." If you have a cell phone, the best thing to do is have a passenger call the police. Also remember that truck drivers clock long hours behind the wheel, and they may not be as alert as you. Keep an eye out for weaving and other signs of fatigue, and report them before they have tragic consequences.


© 2007 The Car Connection

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Sharing the Road with Trucks - Autotrader