Injury Attorney

How To Safely Operate a Car Around 18-Wheelers

Driving around big trucks is often scary.  Especially if you drive a small car, coming up next to a tractor-trailer can feel like a David and Goliath situation.  Many drivers find out the hard way just how justified these fears are, as drivers often face much more severe injuries in truck accidents than in similar crashes with cars due to the sheer size and weight of these trucks.  However, there are ways to stay safe when driving with 18-wheelers.

First, stay out of the trucker’s blind spots, avoid tailgating them, and keep a good following distance to avoid being in the danger zone.  Also, make sure to follow other rules of the road by avoiding distractions, driving sober, and using your turn signals.

For a free case review after a truck accident, call the Maryland truck accident lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.

18-Wheeler Crash Statistics

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) both track statistics related to truck accidents involving tractor-trailers and other large trucks.  The FMCSA’s latest full report is from 2020, but it thankfully shows a decrease in large truck accidents.  Fatalities also went down in 2020.  Nonetheless, the NHTSA statistics still show that trucks were involved in almost 9% of all fatal crashes in 2020 and that most of those trucks were large “combination” vehicles like tractor-trailers.

Because of these stats, it is important to know how to drive around large trucks to keep yourself safe when others will not.

What Should I Not Do When Driving Around 18-Wheelers

There are a few things that you should avoid doing around large trucks as much as possible.

Do Not Drive Too Close to or Tailgate the Truck

Tailgating is always a bad idea since it reduces the space you have to react to a sudden stop in front of you.  Tractor-trailers also have a blind spot to their immediate rear, and driving in that spot can essentially make you disappear from the perspective of the trucker.  Additionally, driving right behind a tractor-trailer cuts off your own view of the road and of upcoming overhead traffic lights, giving you less notice of when you need to stop.

Do No Pass the Truck on the Right

Traffic laws generally encourage drivers to pass on the left rather than the right.  Truckers often have a bit more visibility on their left side since the mirror is closer, and they do not have to crane their neck as much to see out the driver’s side window compared to the passenger-side window.  Additionally, truckers might not be expecting drivers on their right to be going faster and could be less diligent about checking their blind spots when moving to the right or trying to exit the highway in a hurry.

Additionally, you should never pass on the shoulder; always use a marked lane.

Do Not Cut Off the Truck

Suddenly crossing in front of a truck can be incredibly dangerous.  If the truck clips you during this process, your car could be crushed by the truck’s sheer mass.  Even without an immediate crash, the truck might have to suddenly brake and slow down to make room for you, potentially causing an accident with drivers to their rear or causing them to swerve or fishtail into adjacent lanes.

Do Not Drive with Distractions

Keeping your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and your mind on driving are often important safety tips for any driving situation.  However, around truckers, it is best to be extra vigilant.  Distractions could easily cause you to miss a hazardous situation with a truck and get you involved in a crash.

Ways to Drive Safely Around 18-Wheelers

While some things should be avoided, there are other steps you should affirmatively take to help keep you safe on the road when driving around 18-wheelers.

Pass the Truck on the Left

As mentioned, you should usually pass on the left instead of the right.  While truckers can often see the driver’s side of their truck better than the passenger side, they also expect drivers to pass on the left.  If you follow the rules of the road and pass on the left, you can often get past a truck and put them in your rearview mirror more quickly, avoiding the need for more driving around these big vehicles.

Stay Out of the Truck’s Blind Spots or “No Zones”

Trucks have a blind spot directly behind the trailer, directly in front of the cab, and to each side along the trailer.  These blind spots are much larger than the blind spots on a typical sedan or SUV and can make multiple cars disappear from the truck driver’s view.

Driving in these areas could mean the trucker has no clue you are there when they try to turn or change lanes, so it is best to always stay where the trucker can see you instead of in these “no zones” or blind spots.  Remember, if you cannot see the trucker, they cannot see you.

Use Extra Caution in Bad Weather, at Night, and on Dangerous Roads

Slippery roads, strong crosswinds, and low visibility all make it harder for everyone to drive safely.  Bad weather also makes it much harder for truckers to react and stop their vehicles, so make sure to be on extra alert in bad weather and lighting.  Especially curvy or hilly roads are also more dangerous around trucks, so keep your distance and drive safely.

Use Turn Signals, Headlines, and Brake Lights

Lighting up your path, keeping good visibility in the dark, and telling other drivers about your turns and speed changes by using signals and brake lights is important at all times.  It is especially important around truck drivers, as they need more time to slow down, turn, or speed up their vehicles in reaction to what you are doing.

Avoid Road Rage

Driving around trucks can be frustrating, but you should never succumb to road rage.  Passing a truck in a fit of anger can often lead to mistakes that get you both in trouble or cause an accident.

Is it Safer to Drive a Car Behind or Next to an 18-Wheeler?

Driving next to an 18-wheeler is usually more dangerous than driving behind it.  If you are next to the truck – especially if you are in a blind spot where the trucker cannot see you – then you could be in a prime spot for a truck accident.

Staying behind a truck – especially if you are several car lengths back – gives you time to react to the trucker’s moves and to keep your distance.  However, passing the truck and driving well ahead of the trucker is often safer (if it is safe to pass them in the first place).  Then, you do not need to worry about what the trucker is doing or whether they can see you.

Contact Our 18-Wheeler Truck Accident Lawyers to Discuss Your Case

For a free evaluation of your injury case, call our Baltimore truck accident lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291.