When you’re on the road and see a car behaving erratically, your instinct is probably to get as far away as possible. That’s just basic Defensive Driving 101.
Use that same instinct when you drive in the vicinity of tractor-trailers. Studies show that tractor-trailer accidents account for eight percent of all traffic fatalities.
Tractor-trailers are less maneuverable, start more slowly, and take longer to stop than other vehicles. They are particularly susceptible to adverse road conditions.
The average tractor-trailer is a lot bigger than the average car. They range in weight from 12,100 pounds to 80,000 pounds. That means a large commercial truck, such as an 18-wheeler, weighs about 25 times the average car.
Another important consideration is the truck driver. In more than 80 percent of tractor-trailer traffic accidents, the non-commercial driver is not at fault. Most of the deaths or injuries in such accidents happen to the non-commercial driver.
There are many reasons truck drivers are often the cause of accidents. One of the most important factors is driver fatigue caused by working long shifts. Drivers may become fatigued or bored, which means they are distracted drivers. As we know, a distracted driver is a dangerous driver.
While not all accidents can be prevented, there are many things we can do to avoid them. Consider the following things next time you’re on the road and find yourself near a tractor-trailer.
Keep Your Distance
A truck’s size and weight can affect the driver’s ability to brake and stop the truck and his or her ability to change lanes. It is not easy for them to stop quickly, making tailgating extremely dangerous. Keep a safe distance between you and the truck at all times, especially when changing lanes in front of a truck. If you must pass a truck, do it in a hurry, with your full attention on the road. And when possible, don’t drive next to a truck for any extended length of time.
Avoid Blind Spots
Stay visible and anticipate the low visibility of the truck driver. Trucks have large blind spots, with limited visibility next to and behind them. Try to stay in the trucks visibility; if you cannot see the driver or his mirrors, chances are he/she is unable to see you.
In addition to the issues with the truck driver’s visibility and the size and weight of the truck, adverse driving conditions can affect all vehicles on the road. Be sure to slow down in rain, smoke or fog, and take more caution when driving at night. A wet road can make it more difficult for your vehicle to stop, and makes it extremely difficult for a truck driver to stop his vehicle.
Take the design of the road into account since trucks may have difficulty navigating a narrow entrance and exit ramps on a highway or making a tight turn. You may need to speed up or slow down to give the truck more room to maneuver. Take caution when you are entering a highway from an entrance ramp and merging into a fast paced highway, where trucks may have trouble slowing down to allow you to merge in.
Some truck drivers, due to impatience or the desire to drive as many miles as possible, will tailgate and drive aggressively. Drivers may feel the desire to retaliate by cutting the truck driver off or braking suddenly. This is a dangerous reaction. Cars and SUVs are designed and tested against collisions with other like-sized vehicles, not against giant trucks that weigh tons. If a trucker is driving aggressively, slow down and let him pass or get off at the nearest exit. It is also important to report aggressive or faulty truck drivers when possible.