In 2020, 4,014 people died in large truck accidents, which is 35% higher than it was in 2009, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Interestingly, 68% of these deaths were by occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles. The lesson? Driving near large trucks can be dangerous.
If you get into an accident with one, the consequences could be devastating. Assuming you don’t die, you’ll want to consult an experienced truck accident attorney who can help you secure compensation for any damages and injuries (which can be especially serious when trucks are involved).
Of course, it’s better to avoid getting in an accident with a truck altogether. To do that, it helps to follow these safe driving practices:
Avoid driving in truck drivers’ blind spots
Truck drivers have more blind spots than regular automobile drivers due to their vehicle’s larger size.
As a rule, if you can’t see the truck driver’s side mirrors, they probably can’t see you. So if you’re in that position, you’ll want to get out of it as soon as possible. Otherwise, the truck driver could accidentally try to merge while you’re in the way.
Be careful when passing trucks
When it comes to passing trucks, you want to do it quickly (to get out of their blind spots).
You should also avoid passing trucks before a bend that you can’t see past or when going uphill or downhill. Why? Because trucks’ speed will naturally change as the incline does.
It’s also best to pass on the left side since that’s the side truck drivers sit on and have the best vision.
When merging back into the truck’s lane, be sure to leave plenty of space. Trucks can’t stop quickly or maneuver as easily as other vehicles, so cutting it too close could lead to a collision.
Finally, if a truck ever passes you, slow down to help them pass quickly and minimize the amount of time that you are in their blind spot.
Give clear turn signals
Clear turn signals help truck drivers know what to expect and how to adjust to their driving patterns.
So turn on your blinkers early. A sudden turn signal may leave a truck driver with insufficient time to react and cause a crash.
Similarly, make sure your brake lights work so truck drivers know when you’ll be slowing down.
In short, be predictable. The less confusion there is on the road, the less likely it is that a truck accident will occur.
Keep your distance
Driving too close to a truck (sometimes known as tailgating) puts you at increased risk if something goes wrong. For example, the truck in front of you could suddenly break or have a tire blowout, leaving you little time to react.
That’s why you should try to maintain a following distance of four seconds when driving behind trucks (instead of the standard three seconds with passenger vehicles). That means that the time it takes you to catch up to a truck’s position is four seconds at any given moment.
Also, trucks make wide turns that require more clearance, so be sure to give them extra space anytime they signal a turn.
As a rule, you should never drive near a truck if you don’t have to. And when you do, try to be near it for as little time as possible.
Be careful where you pull over on the highway
In an emergency, you may need to pull over on the highway (to check the engine or after an accident, for example).
If that’s the case, aim to pull over somewhere where the shoulder is plenty wide. If the shoulder is too narrow, your parked car could get swiped by a passing truck since trucks tend to drive in the furthest right lane and don’t leave much space because they are so large.
Lower your brights
You should turn off your brights anytime you are driving near other vehicles so you don’t blind them. But this is especially true when driving near trucks.
Trucks have larger side mirrors than most vehicles. So the reflection of the light from your brights can be especially blinding, leaving truck drivers unable to see. This can be extremely dangerous for you and them.
Don’t give in to road rage
A truck driver may try to pass you from time to time or even cut you off. If that happens, just let them.
You never want to “play chicken” with a truck driver or try to get back at them. Doing so will only lead to reckless driving or worse.
If you and the truck driver end up stopping to get out of your vehicles, it could lead to a violent fight that leaves one or both of you behind bars, injured, or even dead.
So never let things escalate that far. It’s simply not worth it.
Check the weather
Poor weather conditions can make it hard to see (e.g. fog, rain, and snow) or slip on the road (e.g. ice). So check the weather before each drive.
If the weather takes a turn for the worse while you’re driving, consider pulling over and waiting it out.
Remember, poor weather makes it harder for you and truck drivers to see, which means the chances of getting into a truck accident are significantly higher.
In 2020, the number of people killed by distracted driving was 3,142, and many of those accidents involved trucks.
As a driver, you should avoid distractions at all costs. That includes texting, eating, drinking, and at times, even talking to other passengers. Anything that detracts your attention from the road.
This is especially important when driving near trucks because truck accidents can be particularly devastating. A truck’s larger size and weight create more momentum, which can lead to a more serious impact.
If you have a road trip planned, cue the music, audiobooks, podcasts, GPS, and other potential distractions before you start driving. Then don’t make adjustments by fiddling with your phone until you stop for a break. That way, you’re more likely to stay focused.
To prevent a truck accident, minimize distractions wherever possible.
Wrapping it up
Unfortunately, some truck accidents are unavoidable. They just happen. But most can be prevented by following the safety guidelines listed above.
So review them carefully and commit them to memory. The next time you witness a truck accident on the road, you’ll be glad you did.