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Safety Tips for Sharing the Road with Large Commercial Vehicles


The results from truck accidents are far more devastating on average than other motor vehicle accidents. In the U.S. one person is killed or injured in a truck crash every 16 minutes. 98% of the fatalities are people in the smaller vehicles as opposed to the occupants of the trucks. Despite these numbers, truck drivers on the average are patient and safe drivers.

When truck accidents occur involving a passenger vehicle, it is the fault of the passenger vehicle driver in 75% of all cases. Only 16% of truck accidents can be attributed to the driver of the truck. Why do truck accidents happen and how can they be prevented?

Drivers on most highways and roadways are forced to share the road with large commercial vehicles. In California, the number of these vehicles is disproportionate to other states due to the large ports where cargo arrives from around the world. Understanding the dynamics of a large truck is important for drivers of passenger vehicles to safely share the roads with these behemoths.

A trailer truck can be 75 feet long and weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Traveling at 55 miles per hour they require a greater stopping distance that smaller vehicles. Truck drivers are often drowsy and their rigs may be overloaded. The slowed reaction time and greater weight increases the required stopping distance. If a smaller vehicle suddenly appears stopped or slowed in the path of the truck the perfect formula for disaster is ignited.

If every driver of a passenger vehicle had the opportunity to drive a large commercial vehicle for a while they would understand the challenges that the truck drivers face every day. Unfortunately, this is not possible. Instead, here are some of the common sense driving procedures that all drivers should practice to make sharing the road with large commercial vehicles safer.

· When driving in front of a truck never slow down abruptly. Trucks require a much greater amount of stopping distance. The driver will be focused in front of you to anticipate your stopping. If you break with no warning the driver will be forced to rear end your vehicle rather than swerve into another lane.

· Never cut closely in front of a truck. You may cause the driver to overreact leading to a crash.

· When passing a truck, try to do it on a straight section of roadway and as quickly as possible. On a curve, a truck is more likely to cross into your lane due to a shift in weight or a gust of wind. Leave yourself an out just in case the truck should drift into your lane.

· Never pass a truck on the right-hand side. The right side of trucks have large blind spots. Should the driver change lanes or make a right-hand turn, the driver will not realize your presence until impact occurs. At that point it will be too late.

· Always provide enough space for a truck to execute a turn. The larger the truck, the more space (and time) it will require to complete a turn. If the truck is signaling to turn right, the driver may swing out to the left first. Do not be in that spot when that happens.

· Always make passing you easy for the truck. If a truck approaches from behind, give the truck the lane by moving over. If not, you may force him to tailgate you or pass you on the right. If a truck passes you and signals to move in front of you, the driver will appreciate a flash of your headlights to let him know his trailer has safely cleared your vehicle. He may even flash his running lights to say thanks.

· Never tailgate a truck. You will never know when he may slow or stop abruptly. If your car ends up beneath the heavy steel bumper of the trailer you are likely to become a fatality.

· When in the proximity of a truck, always be sure the driver can see you. If you can't see his face in his side mirror, he probably can't see you.

· When stopped in traffic behind a truck leave plenty of room, especially on an upgrade. Trucks operate with manual transmissions and may roll backward before moving forward. The driver may not even be aware that he destroyed the front grill of your vehicle.

Sharing the road with trucks becomes much safer when common sense is the rule. Give the larger vehicle the right of way and never force an evasive maneuver. Be particularly careful around large trucks during windy or wet conditions. Expect the unexpected such as the truck suddenly changing lanes.

Try to understand the challenges of operating a large commercial vehicle and the skill that it takes and you will learn to appreciate and respect the men and women who move the needs of our nation every day.

Vititoe Law Group is a personal injury law firm committed to the safety of our roads and highways.

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