The average automobile weighs about two tons. The average big rig, an eighteen-wheeler truck, weighs forty tons or twenty times as much.
If we remember the equation that force equals mass multiplied by acceleration, an automobile faces a lot of risk when gets close to an eighteen-wheeler truck going down the highway.
Large trucks and buses, referred to as Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) can by their very size present greater dangers to drivers than the normal passenger vehicle. 180,000 people were injured in 125,000 crashes involving trucks in 2016.
Crashes involving property damage alone amounted to 443,000 separate incidents. https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2016 . However, there are some very simple precautions that can be taken to make your driving experience safer for you your passengers as well as anyone else on the road.
1. Stay out of Blind Spots or No Zones
Due to their size, Trucks have blind spots or no zones that make it difficult for their drivers to see vehicles that are nearby in adjacent lanes, or directly in front or directly behind them.
The general rule is if you can’t see the driver in in his/her rearview mirror, the driver cannot see you and therefore, if the driver moves into adjacent lanes, you risk being hit.
The same problem exists for about twenty feet in front and thirty feet behind the vehicle. You should consider moving to be further behind the big rig or further ahead of it.
Remember in any battle over any contact between you and a truck or bus, you will come out the loser.
Obviously, there is no way to avoid the problem of blind spots if you need to pass. Therefore, if you need to move ahead of big rig or other CMV, play it safe. Make certain the truck driver can see you, signal before taking any action. Try not to pass on a downgrade where the CMV will normally pick up speed.
If you see a truck signaling, make certain you are a safe distance behind before the lane change. If you are passing, always try to do so on the left and make sure that you are seen by the vehicle. Then make your move safely but quickly without staying to long in the blind spot areas.
2. Move Safely in Front of a CMV
It can take up to the length of two football fields or 600 yards for a large vehicle like a bus or truck to apply brakes and come to a complete stop.
It makes sense then to consider that suddenly cutting in front of a CMV is a recipe for disaster. When completing passing in front of a vehicle, remember blind spots and to allow for sufficient space between your vehicle and the CMV behind you once you move back into the lane where the truck is.
3. Give Extra Space and Caution for Turning
As seen by the above diagram, a truck has a turning radius about 55 feet, which is almost twice that of the average car. Drivers should their best to stay outside the lane in the area adjacent to a Commercial Motor Vehicle about to make a wide turn. Trying to squeeze by while a truck is making a turn is could result in the car being sandwiched or crushed. Consider that if a truck is turning and you cannot see the front or the cab, then the driver cannot see you either.
4. Don’t Drive too Close Behind a Truck or Large Bus
While the safe stopping distance for a car is shorter than that of a truck, failure to keep a proper distance can result in not just a collision, but the car sliding underneath the CMV., completely crushing both the car and passengers.
In 2016 nearly 4,000 people died in accidents between cars and trucks. 66% were car drivers and their passengers. https://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/large-trucks/fatalityfacts/large-trucks.
In a battle between you and a CMV, you are likely to come out as the ;loser Even if you are not in a truck’s blind spot, keep in mind what a safe stopping distance would be for you under the current road conditions and adjust your driving accordingly.
5. Don’t Get Boxed Between CMVs
If being in the blind spot of one truck is dangerous, being stuck between two CMVs adds to the dilemma. You now have both adjacent lanes taken and restricting your exit as well as two large vehicles to endanger you.
Either safely accelerate or slow down to get out of a potential squeeze play, and then pass into a new lane from the left. Avoid the problem from the start by being aware of the flow of traffic around you on the highway.
Provide yourself with options for maintaining safe driving distances and room for maneuvering. If because of slow moving traffic, you cannot get free, drive safely until you are able to exit from the situation.
6. Be Prepared for Unexpected Events
Anyone travelling on highways in the summer has seen pieces of rubber on the side of the road, the tell-tale sign of a tire blow-out, which can occur from expanding tire pressure and the weight of the CMV (don’t forget those twenty tons!).
The immediate result of a blow-out can be a loss of control, the truck weaving and potentially even jackknifing. Jackknifing means the front turns inward, so the front of the truck and the back are facing the same direction.
You as a car driver cannot control what happens to a large truck or bus, but you can react in the safest manner possible which includes slowing down, moving into other lanes and remaining always alert while on the road. Driving requires you not only to be aware of the road, but who and what is on the highway as well.
7. Adjust Your Driving to Weather Conditions
Based on when you are on the road, you may need to exercise more caution than normal. Rain, snow and other precipitation may not only affect the ability to see traffic on the road, but how you’re ability to react as well.
The general rule is that the stopping distance doubles in rain and is up to ten times as much in snow and icy conditions.
Usually the gap between you and the truck in front of you should be about three feet for every mile per hour you are travelling.
That would mean if you were travelling 50 MPH, you should allow 150 feet between you and the vehicle in front. In rainy weather, this distance would increase would be 300 feet. (source: https://www.westssom.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Stopping-Distances.pdf).
8. Adjust Your Driving to the Time of Day
Travelling in conditions of reduced visibility such as fog and darkness, should also lead to increased cautiousness and care. Your stopping distance needed in the dark doubles as well.
Of course, instead of increasing the distance between you and the truck in front, simply decreasing your speed would have the same effect.
Finally, also consider that individuals driving at night maybe more tired than driving during the day. Studies have found having a significant lack of sleep can be similar in effect to be drunk or intoxicated, with similar lapses in judgment and reaction time.
9. Be a Polite Driver
Road rage can affect truck driver as much as drivers of an automobiles. The difference is that a truck driver probably has a vehicle you may not want to take on in a test of vehicles.
If you suddenly cut off a truck driver, you may not only be acting dangerously but also getting the big rig operator angry as well. He then may try to retaliate, block your access to certain lanes or take other actions.
At the very least, a driver may not cooperate if you do need him to move over or yield. Courtesy on the road is not just proper etiquette, but a way of insuring that everybody maintains their cool on the highway.
10. Consult Professionals for Specific Advice
Recent statistics suggest that after a period of decline, accidents on the road involves trucks and other CMVs has increased. This may due to increased speed limits as well as additional traffic on our road systems.
Road infrastructure (highway construction) increased 5.2 percent while traffic volume increased 14.0 percent from 2,747 billion to 3,131 billion vehicle-miles traveled, over the 2000 to 2015 period. https://www.bts.gov/bts-publications/freight-facts-and-figures/freight-facts-figures-2017-chapter-3-freight. If this continues to be true, it will be more important than ever to do our best to be proactive drivers while sharing the roads with big rigs.
If you do have an accident with a truck, bus or any other commercial vehicle and you have questions regarding liability issues, consider contacting a lawyer to discuss the matter and answer your specific situation. The Law Office of Randolph Rice will be happy to guide you and inform you of your legal rights.