Safety Tips for Driving Near Big Rigs

Large commercial trucks contribute to thousands of fatal car accidents every year in the U.S.. We need big rigs to fuel America’s economy, but these large, heavy vehicles pose serious threats to other roadway users. While it is not always possible to prevent a big rig accident, defensive driving can help drivers avoid these dangerous situations. Follow these safety tips next time you’re driving near an 18-wheeler to improve your chances of avoiding a collision.

Give Extra Room to Large Trucks

The Large Truck Crash Causation Study found that 5% of large truck accidents occurred when the truck driver followed the lead vehicle too closely. Large trucks can’t stop as quickly as smaller, lighter vehicles. Thus, rear-end collisions are a greater possibility when driving in front of big rigs. Leave more room in front of and behind your vehicle to prevent these accidents.

Follow the five-second rule instead of the three-second rule: Leave at least one second for every 10 feet of vehicle length (account for 50 feet at speeds over 40 miles per hour) between you and the vehicle in front of you. Prepare to swerve to the left or right of the vehicle in front of you, should you notice a big rig failing to stop in time to prevent a rear-end collision. Defensive driving practices such as avoiding driving in front of a big rig can help prevent these crashes. Never cut a big rig off, as the driver likely cannot stop in time to avoid an accident.

Do Not Drive in Blind Spots

Big rig drivers have larger blind spots than typical motor vehicles. There are several areas where the driver cannot see cars around the truck at all. There is an especially bad blind spot on the right side of an 18-wheeler. It is wise not to pass a commercial truck on its right side or drive in this area if you can avoid it. You may notice a sign on the back of a semi stating something along the lines of, “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” This is a good rule to abide by – if you cannot see the truck’s sideview mirrors, assume you are in the driver’s blind spot. Never assume a truck driver can see your vehicle. Believe the opposite, and pass as quickly as possible to avoid driving in a blind spot for an extended period of time.

Pass with Care

On top of dangerous blind spots, passenger vehicle drivers also face a much longer distance to pass big rigs. If you must pass an 18-wheeler on a two-lane highway, only do so when you can see far ahead in the opposite lane. Do not pass if it will require going over the speed limit, or if you will have to come to a sudden stop once you get in front of the big rig. There is no guarantee that the large truck can stop fast enough if you cut it off before a stop sign or red light. Give a truck more space than you would to other vehicles once you pass – wait until you can see the front of the truck in your rearview mirror before returning to the lane.

Watch Out for Wide Turns

The structure of a big rig makes it impossible to make sharp turns. Instead, trucks require wide berths, especially when making a right turn. Trucks may need to swing left to turn right successfully. Do not squeeze your vehicle directly next to or behind a big rig making a turn. It can be difficult to tell where the driver will need to maneuver to make the turn possible. Give the truck enough room, and wait to see where the truck driver intends to make the turn before making your move. These simple truck safety tips can make all the difference next time you’re near a big rig.