How to Drive Safely Around Semi-Trucks
If you live in or around Santa Clarita, chances are you’ve shared the road with semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles. The 5 freeway is a hot spot for commercial shipping, as is the California 14.
Many people get nervous when driving next to these big rigs, which is a natural response considering the trucks are much larger and heavier, and therefore more dangerous than, passenger vehicles. Fortunately, when driving next to large trucks, you have more control over your safety than you think.
Our tips and tricks can help you prevent a devastating truck accident.
Step 1: Stay Out of the “No Zones”
Side underride crashes are one of the most common causes of fatal car-truck accidents. If a passenger vehicle collides with the side of a semi-truck, they are far too likely to slide underneath. The same principle applies to the front and rear of the vehicle.
On all 4 sides, big rigs have huge blind spots, which means they might not always be able to see you.
A good rule of thumb is:
“If you can’t see the driver in the vehicle side mirror, assume the driver can’t see you.”
When traveling next to an 18-wheeler or another large vehicle, slow down or speed up to stay out of the vehicle’s “no-zones”
- The 20 feet directly in front of the truck
- The 30 feet directly behind the truck
- The lane immediately to the left of the truck
- The 2 lanes to the right of the truck
If it helps, imagine there is a small force field in front of and behind the truck, and draw mental lines diagonally from the truck’s side mirrors.
Step 2: Merge and Pass Safely
Try to remember the information above when merging onto the freeway. If a driver isn’t letting you in, it is most likely because they cannot see you.
When you pass, take extra care to make sure a driver can see you. Signal clearly and pass the large vehicle as quickly as possible. Before you change lanes in front of the truck, make sure you can see the entire vehicle in your rearview mirror. If possible, allow for even more space.
Always pass from the left lane and try to avoid passing on a hill or downgrade.
If a truck is trying to pass you, don’t try and stop them. Stay to the right and give them extra space by slowing down. You can always pass them safely after they’ve made their lane change.
Step 3: Say No To Aggressive Driving
Do not tailgate 18-wheelers and do not cut them off.
If you drive too close to the rear of a large truck, you are putting yourself at constant risk of slipping underneath. Even if you are confident in your ability to drive safely, another driver could rear-end you and push you into the back of the vehicle.
Semi-trucks take 40% longer to stop than passenger vehicles. If you cut in too close while passing a large truck, they might not have the time required to adjust. Additionally, you don’t want to put yourself in danger by zipping into one of the truck’s many blind spots (see above).
Step 4: Be Patient
Although it’s frustrating to drive around vehicles that are bigger, and often slower, than ours, we owe the same duty of care to every driver on the road.
If a truck is taking a while to speed up or slow down, just wait until it’s safe to pass them. Don’t weave in and out of traffic or honk, as it can distract the driver.
Similarly, allow semi-trucks to have extra space when they are turning, merging, or changing lanes. If you get in their way, they may not be able to prevent an accident, but your patience could save lives.
Step 5: Be Present
Driving safely around 18-wheelers isn’t too different from driving safely the rest of the time.
- Avoid distractions like cell phones and electronic devices
- Pull over if you’re feeling sleepy
- NEVER drink and drive
- Buckle up
- Drive defensively and stay focused on the road at all times
When you drive carefully, you are preventing countless accidents and keeping yourself safe from unexpected or inappropriate behavior. That being said, we can only control our own actions, and we cannot prevent EVERY accident on the road.
Harmed By a Semi-Truck? Call Our Firm for Help!
While we hope our tips and tricks help you drive more safely around big rigs, you should never take the blame for an accident with a commercial vehicle.
Even though they are professionals, truck drivers can be just as negligent as anyone else on the road.