Accidents involving tractor-trailers or big rigs, as they’re more popularly called, kill thousands of people every year. In fact, there were over 300,000 accidents, causing over 100,000 injuries and almost 4,000 deaths, in the year 2012 alone. Unsurprisingly, a related study also found that over 70% of the fatalities caused by these accidents were occupants of the other vehicle, the one that collided with the tractor-trailer. With that said, it’s easy to see just how important it is to be careful around these highway behemoths.
Although the usual road safety tips, such as staying alert, driving within the speed limit, and observing basic traffic rules, should obviously be observed, there are also quite a few special tips that relate directly to avoiding tractor-trailer accidents. Here are some of them:
Beware of blind spots. A “blind spot” refers to the place which can’t be seen in a vehicle’s rearview and side mirrors. While every car has a blind spot, the ones on a 10 to 80 thousand pound tractor-trailer are understandably larger than the blind spots on regular vehicles.
To ensure that the truck driver is able to see you, it’s highly recommended that you stay at least four car-lengths away. Moreover, remember to drive defensively. Unless the contrary clearly appears to be the case, always assume that the truck driver can’t see you and act accordingly.
If you must pass, do it quickly. As mentioned in the preceding tip, it can be very easy for truck drivers to miss smaller vehicles, especially if they happen to be in their blind spot. With that said, it clearly stands to reason that you should avoid travelling alongside them as much as possible.
“What’s the worst that could happen,” the unimaginative may ask. Well, if the truck driver can’t see you, there’s a pretty good chance that he may force you into another car while he’s changing lanes. At worst, if you travel between two big rigs, you may even be squished between them if either of the two decides to move closer together.
Be extra careful while changing lanes. Keep in mind that the sheer size of the tractor-trailer often makes it challenging to maneuver. This is exactly why some jurisdictions require a special type of driver’s license before a person can operate a big rig. Unfortunately, even the most qualified individuals can make mistakes, especially when they’re caught off guard. To help minimize the risk of these costly mistakes, always give fair warning to the driver before attempting to change lanes. Needless to say, you also need to give them this warning while you’re not in the driver’s blind spot.
Yield the right-of-way. Tractor-trailers take longer to speed up, slow down, and stop; they need to make wider turns; they are extremely difficult to back up; they even have difficulty changing lanes. In other words, trucks are simply more difficult to drive. Considering that, it probably goes without saying that it’s in everyone’s best interests that we give trucks the right-of-way. After all, nobody comes out on top after a car accident.