Did you know that the average accident involving a semi-truck costs over $300,000, and that the risk of fatality in these accidents is 50 percent higher than that for crashes involving passenger vehicles only? Also, over 250,000 crashes between passenger cars and semis happen every year, and 70 percent of the fatal crashes among those 250,000 are the fault of the passenger car driver, not the truck driver. These statistics are sobering, and they show the importance of learning how to drive safely around semis. It’s easy to feel that the risk is all on the head of the semi-truck driver, but in reality, passenger vehicles that share the roads with semis have some responsibility as well. Here are some tips to help you drive safely around semi-trucks, so everyone, truck driver and car driver, can stay safe.
1. Know and Avoid Blind Spots
You’ve seen the signs “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” These signs should not be ignored. All semi-trucks have serious blind spots on the sides, close behind and close in front. These are often called the “no zone.” You need to avoid hanging out in these locations, because you could be putting both of you at risk.
This is particularly dangerous in heavy traffic, when it might be difficult to avoid the blind spots at the sides of the truck, and in intense driving scenarios, when it’s tempting to jump in front of the semi. Remember, the semi has a space between itself and the cars in front for a reason. If you jump in that space, and the semi has to stop suddenly, you are likely to get hit.
2. Give Space for Turns
A semi-truck is pulling a 53-foot-long trailer. This makes it difficult o turn on a dime. If you notice that a truck is trying to turn, back off, and not into the lane beside him. Let him turn, then pull ahead safely.
3. Know Why He Goes Slow
“I was stuck behind a truck” may be your excuse for showing up for work late, but don’t let it be an excuse to get mad at the driver. Many semis have speed governors that prevent them from accelerating past a set maximum speed. Simply find a good opportunity to move around the truck, and understand that the river likely has no control over his “slow” speed.
That said, if that slow truck is trying to merge left, be gracious. There is probably a problem he can see ahead of you that you can’t see. Drivers are well trained to stay in the slow lane whenever possible, so let him merge when he needs to. Blocking his way could put you into his blind spot anyway, so it’s just not worthwhile.
4. Be Aware
As a driver, you have a responsibility to pay attention and be aware whenever you are on the road. This includes when you are on the road around a truck. If you notice that the truck has his blinkers on or is using his horn to get your attention, figure out why and what you need to do to stay safe.
Remember, a semi-truck is much bigger than you. You aren’t going to come out the winner if you are in a crash involving one. To stay safe, understand the specific risks associated with trucks, and be a courteous, aware driver.