If you get a bit anxious when encountering a commercial truck on the highway, you are not alone. Trucks and 18-wheelers have a whole lot more vehicle to deal with when navigating the roads, including their massive size and weight. A big rig’s limitations, like blind spots and slower braking time, make it more dangerous around passenger cars, and any mistake on the driver’s or truck company’s part only heightens that risk.
When sharing the road with commercial trucks, something that happens to most of us here in North Dakota every day, keep the following in mind. Driving defensively can help you avoid being seriously injured or assigned fault in a truck accident.
18-wheelers have huge blind spots
Commercial trucks, due to their size and trailers, have multiple and large blind spots. These blind spots are called the “No Zones” and are around the front, back, and sides of the vehicle. If you’re merging near a large truck, beware of the No Zones.
The rule of thumb is if you can’t see the trucker in their side mirror, they can’t see you either. Truckers must check their mirrors and perform due diligence before backing up, turning, or changing lanes, but motorists must do their own visual check as well.
Pass commercial vehicles on the left
Pass big rigs on the left only and pass them as quickly as possible; you don’t need to hang around to say hello. Before you do pass, however, first ensure the trucker can see you in their mirror and turn on your signal to indicate that you intend to switch lanes. Pass them immediately and switch back to the right lane only after you can see them fully in your rearview mirror – and give them some extra room just for safety.
Trucks need a lot of space
Big trucks obviously require a lot of room to maneuver on roads and highways. Many trucks will cross over two lanes to make a wide turn, which is why it’s so important to never pass a right-turning truck on the right. An unsuspecting motorist could become trapped between the truck and the curb or other obstacle. Further, driving too closely to an 18-wheeler can increase the odds of being involved in an accident. The truck could experience a tire blowout, lose its cargo or debris, or suddenly brake.
Because of their heavy weight, trucks need much more time to stop their vehicles. Never cut off a tractor-trailer, as it puts you in the No Zone and at risk of being rear-ended. Similarly, truckers should never tailgate any vehicle, especially passenger cars. If a truck is following you too closely, allow it to pass you safely.
Try to keep a driving distance of at least four seconds between you and the truck in front of you, ensuring you can see their side mirrors. Adjust this time in any inclement weather conditions where drivers may need increased time to stop their vehicles.
Other considerations to keep in mind, especially here in North Dakota:
- Heavy wind gusts can cause trucks to suddenly shift into your lane, so stay alert.
- 18-wheelers can also cause air turbulence, which can cause your vehicle to shake. Ensure you keep both hands on the wheel.
- In winter months, trucks can spray a great amount of snow or ice that can reduce or even obstruct visibility.
Safe driving advice from the FMCSA
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) offers a few other tips for motorists driving near commercial trucks and vehicles:
- Be patient; big rigs move a bit slower and need more time to accelerate.
- Always wear your seat belt and ensure your passengers do the same.
- Never drive distracted, fatigued, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Of course, truck drivers have a responsibility to act safely on the roads, too. The FMCSA also notes several “rules of the road” for commercial truck and bus drivers, most importantly, defense. They state that commercial drivers must be “constantly vigilant to detect unexpected road conditions, distracted drivers, and motorists who don’t understand how commercial vehicles operate.”
Truckers should also use their signals, know how to handle adverse weather conditions, and practice safety in work zones. The FMCSA also stresses the importance of proper truck maintenance, which, if performed improperly, can put both the trucker’s and any passing motorist’s lives at risk.
At Larson Law Firm, P.C., if you or a loved one were injured in a crash, our truck accident attorneys may be able to help. We can investigate your case to determine the cause, and work to secure financial compensation for your injuries and losses. For answers to your questions about a potential claim, contact us in Minot, Fargo, or Bismarck today at 701-484-HURT, or complete the contact form to schedule a free consultation. We handle accident cases on a contingency fee basis.
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