Accidents are an unfortunate reality of driving—in fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) at the U.S. Department of Transportation reported 5.5 million accidents on U.S. roads in 2009. Another reality of driving is sharing the roads with commercial trucks, also known as 18-wheelers, or semi-trucks.
In 2009, the FMCSA recorded 286,000 accidents involving large trucks, and data shows that the drivers of passenger vehicles involved in these accidents are most often at fault for causing the crash. Sadly, because the commercial vehicles are often much larger and heavier than the passenger vehicles in an accident, data also shows that occupants in the passenger vehicle suffer 86 percent of fatalities and 75 percent of injuries when a truck collides with a smaller vehicle. Here are some safety tips to help keep you stay safe out on the road and prevent accidents with large commercial trucks.
STAY OUT OF THE “NO-ZONE”
Every vehicle has blind spots, but large commercial vehicles have significantly larger blind spots and areas where there is very limited, or no visibility. This includes areas immediately behind the vehicle’s trailer, as well as on the both the driver and passenger sides. Do not drive in a commercial truck’s “No-Zone”, and if you must drive there, try to change lanes, speed up, or slow down so you do not remain in the “No-Zone” for long.
SLOW DOWN IN DANGEROUS AREAS
When you’re driving in an area with dangerous road conditions, such as curves, limited visibility, steep downhill grade, or construction zones, slow down and be aware of the traffic around you. These areas can be particularly difficult for a truck driver to navigate, so driving safely can help you limit the potential of being involved in an accident.
MAINTAIN A SAFE DISTANCE
Remember the lessons from your driver’s education course that advised you remain several car lengths behind the vehicle in front of you? The same is true for trucks! Be sure you leave enough distance between you and the truck in front of you to be able to safely stop if the 18-wheeler stops unexpectedly. This is particularly important in smaller vehicles, because if you rear-end a truck with a back end that is high off the ground, it could be the windshield of your car that hits the truck instead of your front bumper.
KEEP YOUR SEATBELT SECURELY FASTENED
Buckling your seatbelt is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself, save lives, and reduce injuries in case of an accident. A 2012 study by the AAA Traffic Safety Foundation found that 25 percent of drivers admit to not wearing a seatbelt in the past 30 days, and one in five say they have driven without a seatbelt multiple times. In addition, the FMCSA reports that in fatal crashes involving semi-trucks and passenger vehicles, only 65 percent of passenger vehicle drivers were wearing seatbelts. Buckling up will not only protect you in case of an accident, but can also help you maintain control of the vehicle.
BE A “DEFENSIVE DRIVER”
Aggressive driving behaviors account for nearly half of all traffic accidents that involve fatalities each year, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. These behaviors include things like tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, driving on the shoulder, sidewalk, or median, passing illegally, speeding, running stoplights or stop signs, and other similar activities. Avoid these behaviors, and avoid other vehicles with drivers who are displaying these behaviors.
When you’re around commercial vehicles, use common sense and awareness about your driving habits. Keep in mind that trucks are much larger and heavier than your vehicle, so they have different capabilities for acceleration, braking, and visibility. Avoid sudden movements around trucks, such as abrupt lane changes, pulling into traffic in front of a truck without speeding up sufficiently, sudden stops, and driving on the right side of a truck that is making a right-hand turn.
Sharing the road is a reality of driving, so learning how to safely operate your vehicle in the vicinity of large commercial trucks and other vehicles is the best way to stay safe. Educating yourself on proper driving behavior around trucks can help you and your loved ones, as well as the truck driver and other motorists out on the road, arrive at your destination.