Semi-truck drivers are very diligent and safe drivers and are trained to operate their vehicles with extreme caution and understanding. Even when a truck driver is doing everything 100% correctly, there is still a chance that an accident can occur due to several factors. Driving defensively and paying attention to your surroundings is always a good philosophy to follow when driving, but is critical when you are sharing the road with a truck.
Here are 4 important tips to remember when driving near a semi:
1.) Truck Drivers Have Large Blind Spots
Semi drivers have a significantly different, and sometimes limited, view of the road compared to standard passenger vehicle drivers. This is primarily due to the inability of a truck to have a rearview mirror. To compensate, trucks do have several additional mirrors, but there are still large blind spots in their vision.
Like passenger vehicles, not being aware of your blind spot can be deadly. See the graphic, and note the spots highlighted in red. If you are driving within those areas next to a semi, they CANNOT see you. That means that if they need to quickly change lanes, brake, or do any other quick maneuver, and you are in those areas, you are likely to be struck by the semi.
The best tip to avoid this is to always be out of these areas or to provide enough space between you and the semi so that you have time to react.
2.) Abruptly Stopping in Front of a Truck Can Be Deadly!
Trucks have a different braking system than passenger vehicles. They are extremely powerful mechanisms that can slow several thousand (sometimes several hundred thousand) pound vehicles! Unfortunately, semi-trucks need more time and distance to slow their vehicle to a stop.
NEVER pull out in front of a semi-truck unless you are absolutely sure you have enough time to accelerate to the truck’s speed. If you were to cut a semi off by pulling out in front of it without enough distance, the semi will be completely incapable of stopping before striking your vehicle. Practicing extra caution is always the preferred driving method. If you are not sure, just wait until the truck passes!
3.) Windy Conditions Are Dangerous
Wind can be a very dangerous part of the driving experience. When you are in a car close to the ground, you are safer than if you are driving a tall vehicle like a van or a truck. This is especially true for semis. Regardless of their immense weight, the height of the tractor and trailer(s) are affected heavily by the wind. It can cause a truck to roll over onto its side, which is another reason why you should avoid driving next to a truck because it can easily crush you if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
One thing that many do not consider is the wind that a semi-truck produces when it is traveling down the road. There is an interesting myth busters episode in which they experiment and discover that a semi creates so much wind that it can reduce your gas mileage – but to do so you have to be extremely close behind it, which is also extremely unsafe – SO DON’T! But winds caused by a truck driving down the highway can make you feel uneasy while driving, and can even cause your vehicle to swerve. If you feel your driving is being affected by another vehicle, try to move yourself to a safer position on the road.
4.) Give Trucks Room to Turn
Trucks have to turn very wide to ensure that the trailer makes it through the turn as well. When you pull up to a red light, you may see a truck with a right turn signal, but in the middle lane. This may be confusing at first, but they are just compensating for the turn they have to make by giving themselves an extra lane of room.
If you are turning right as well, it is wise to stop your vehicle behind the semi as though they were in your lane. After they turn, you are safe to go ahead. This is to avoid the trailer hitting you during the wide turn – and again, due to blind spots, the driver of the truck may not even see that you are in the right lane to begin with.