No matter how much experience you have, driving next to a semi-truck can be intimidating. With over 2.9 million tractor-trailers in the U.S., every driver needs to learn how to safely share the road with 18-wheelers. Next time you find yourself in this situation, take a deep breath and remember these six simple tips.
1. Give Them Plenty of Space
A semi-truck full of cargo can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, making it difficult for it to stop quickly. Under ideal conditions, a tractor-trailer traveling 65 mph can take up to the length of two football fields to stop. This means that cutting off a semi-truck can lead to dangerous accidents which may result in serious injury or even death.
Always avoid driving too close to a semi-truck. If it has to stop suddenly, your car could slide under its trailer. Whenever possible, also avoid driving next to an 18-wheeler. A tire could blow and hit your car or strong winds could push it into your lane. The further you can stay away from a tractor-trailer, the more you can reduce the chances of making contact with it.
2. Stay Out of Their Blind Spots
Large trucks have more blind spots than regular passenger vehicles, making it difficult for drivers to see you as you approach. Remember that if you can’t see your vehicle in the truck’s mirrors, the driver likely can’t see you.
To stay out of a truck’s blind spots, leave a space of at least 30 feet behind and 20 feet ahead whenever possible. Avoid the two lanes to the right of the truck and one lane to the left, extending half the length of the trailer. Before merging in front of a truck, also make sure you can see its entire front end. This will help you avoid a rear-end collision.
3. Drive Defensively
Even if you feel extremely comfortable behind the wheel, it’s important to drive defensively and stay alert whenever you’re driving near large trucks. You may be able to avoid a car accident by paying close attention to traffic patterns, vehicle signals, and weather conditions. This will allow you to anticipate problems before they happen so you can safely maneuver away before you end up in a collision.
4. Pass Quickly
Generally, passenger vehicles travel at higher speeds than large trucks, so there’s a good chance you’ll need to pass them often. When you do, give them extra room by driving toward the outside edge of the lane. Also, speed up when you pass instead of lingering alongside.
5. Dim Your Lights
Blinding a driver with your high beams is never a good idea, but when the driver is behind the wheel of a massive semi-truck, this can be really dangerous. Bright lights reflecting off a trucker’s mirror can blind them for up to two seconds or longer. In that time, a truck going 55 mph can travel a distance of greater than half a football field. Keep everyone on the road safer by dimming your high beams whenever you’re within one block of a semi-truck.
6. Communicate Clearly
It’s important to use your turn signals any time you’re on the road, as this helps you clearly communicate your intentions to other drivers. If you’re changing lanes or merging in front of a semi-truck, activate your turn signals at least three seconds before you plan to move. This will allow the driver time to slow down or move over.
Keep Your Driving Skills Sharp
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