Making Yourself Visible to Trucks
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In 2012, there were over 1.7 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The number of driving jobs in the trucking industry is expected to increase by 11% through 2022, which means even more truckers will be hitting the road. Due to the size and weight of trucks, those truck drivers are at a much higher risk of causing serious injury to themselves and others when they are involved in an accident. Since sharing the road with trucks cannot be avoided, ensuring that your vehicle is visible to the truck driver is one of the best ways you can help yourself avoid becoming involved in an accident with a big rig and avoid pesky complications with insurance.
If you need to change lanes while driving in front of a semi or other large truck, gauge your distance carefully. Give a minimum of a ten car length buffer between yourself and the truck before negotiating the change. A good measure to use is to look through your rearview mirror and determine whether or not you can clearly see both of the truck’s headlights. If you can, there may be enough distance between the two of you.
Truck drivers maintain a significant cushion between themselves and the vehicle in front of them. Many drivers see that extra space as a spot to be filled, so they merge into the lane in front of the trucker. The problem is that the trucker must then brake in order to create the same cushion of space he had created with the original car. if you are driving in front of a truck, monitor your distance by always making sure you can see his headlights. That way, if you need to stop, the trucker also has enough room to safely stop without running into you.
When traveling behind a big truck, keep a distance of a minimum of 20 to 25 car lengths. Otherwise, the truck driver will not be able to see you through his side view mirrors, and that could have disastrous consequences if he suddenly decides to change lanes.
When a car is driving next to a truck, it can easily go undetected by the truck driver. If your vehicle is positioned alongside a truck and you are unable to see the truck driver’s face in his side view mirror, then he can’t see you either. Do not hover along the side of a truck. Either get behind it or in front of it as soon as is safely possible.
Along the same lines, when you pass a truck, don’t linger. Negotiate the action as quickly as is reasonably possible. Also, never pass a truck on its right side. The truck driver’s blind spot on his right extends the entire length of his truck, and it continues out for three lanes. Always pass on the left.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that there were 3,802 large trucks involved in fatal crashes in the United States in 2012, a 5% increase from 2011. While the number of accidents and fatalities differs from state to state, the danger exists on all of our nation’s roads. Some states, like New Hampshire and Vermont report consistently low numbers, while other states, such as Missouri and Georgia regularly have a high number of truck-related accidents. In fact, according to Sansone & Lauber , some 6,000 injury cases in Missouri alone can be attributed to large trucks. When you are on the road and you see a large truck, drive defensively, keep your distance, and make sure the driver can see you. It could literally save your life.