The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracks crashes involving large commercial trucks like semi-trucks and tractor-trailers. Unfortunately, these crashes are on the rise. The NHTSA reported that 4,237 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes in 2017. That same year saw 344,000 injury crashes involving large trucks.
Although some accidents are unavoidable, many can be prevented. One way to prevent accidents is to adopt the following habits while sharing the road with tractor-trailers and other large trucks.
Don’t fight with trucks over the right-of-way
Have you ever stopped at a four-way stop only to watch someone else go when it’s not their turn? This can be an infuriating experience, but it’s never worth fighting over. Fighting over the right-of-way with other drivers is dangerous enough with passenger cars, but if you fight with commercial trucks you’re asking for serious injuries and/or death.
Sometimes truck accidents are truly accidents, but some truck drivers recklessly speed toward their next stop and put passenger vehicles at risk. It’s common to see tractor-trailers barely slow down at a stop sign before bolting through.
Use extra caution with right-of-way on highways and interstates
When traveling at highway speeds, injuries resulting from a crash are going to be more severe. On the highway, sometimes trucks don’t signal, or they try to squeeze into a lane at the last minute.
Be extra mindful when traveling on highways and interstates – truck accidents are far more common on highways. For example, Virginia is home to one of the busiest interstates in the country – Interstate 81. Each year, millions of trucks use I-81 to transport goods across the United States. Unfortunately, tractor-trailers are involved in about a quarter of all crashes on this busy interstate.
Whatever situations you encounter on the road with trucks, if they’re not yielding to your right of way, give it up and give them a wide berth.
Drive with the assumption the truck in front of you will enter your lane
When you’re driving down the highway and encounter a semi-truck next to you, always assume that truck is going to change lanes in front of you at any given moment. Make it your goal to either speed up and get past the truck or move over to the left lane where the truck is not likely (or legally allowed) to drive.
Make yourself visible before passing to exit the highway
You never know when a semi-truck in front of you will change lanes or move toward an exit. The driver might decide to exit at the exact moment you decide to exit and that can be scary.
Truck drivers have four major blind spots that put you at risk. Anytime you’re driving behind a commercial truck, make sure the driver can see you in their side mirror. Never assume their fancy mirror setups are sufficient. If you can’t see the driver’s mirrors, they can’t see you. If a truck driver doesn’t know you’re behind them, they might start braking at the exact moment you decide to change lanes and exit.
To make yourself known, drive toward the left edge of your lane until you can see the driver in his or her side mirror. Do this before changing lanes to exit in order to give the driver the opportunity to see you.
Pass large trucks on the left
Always pass large trucks on the left. You should always have room to pass on the left since big trucks aren’t allowed to drive in the far right lanes. The only time you should pass a large truck on the right is if you’re exiting the highway.
Pass a tractor-trailer as quickly as possible in the left-hand lane. The passenger side of a giant truck is a large blind spot. As you pass on the left, move as far to the left of the lane as possible. You never know when a truck will swerve or drift.
If your goal is to get back in your original lane ahead of the truck, wait before getting back in that lane. Pass the truck and keep driving to gain the distance of a few football fields before getting back in the lane.
Keep yourself and your passengers safe
When driving on the road with tractor-trailers and other large commercial trucks, keep your distance and stay alert. Remember that a truck driver doesn’t have great visibility and you need to drive carefully to keep yourself and your passengers safe.