For most drivers across the country, sharing the road with semi-trucks is a common occurrence. However, most people don’t know many of the differences between semi-trucks and passenger vehicles, or how they can drive more safely around them. With over 75% of all commercial motor vehicle accidents caused by passenger vehicle drivers, knowing the distinctions and how to adjust driving habits can be the difference between life and death.
Distinctions in Operation of Semi-trucks
Semi-trucks operate very differently the common passenger vehicles. For starters, most semis weigh approximately 80,000 pounds (or 40 tons), and have 18 wheels spread across a large cabin and extra-long trailer. The mere size and separate components mean that semi-trucks can’t perform many of the maneuvers that passenger vehicles can.
For example, these extra-long trailers provide extra-large blind spots for truck drivers. Because of this, it’s extremely difficult for drivers to see passenger vehicles when they change lanes or make a turn. Moreover, merely making a turn with these trailers requires truck drivers to go out and make wide turns to accommodate the extra payload behind them.
Also, stepping on the brakes with 40 tons of steel behind you means that you won’t get the same immediate reaction you do when stopping a Toyota Corolla. Semi-trucks require long stopping distances and passenger vehicles that do not allow for this often see themselves on the wrong side of a rear-end accident with these giant trucks. The weight also means that truck drivers have limited maneuverability in traffic or other obstacles.
Safe Driving Tips
While there are many distinctions in how semi-trucks operate on the road, everyday passenger vehicle drivers should be aware of some practices that will help them avoid an accident with these trucks. Below is a brief rundown of five of the most important safety tips to keep in mind when sharing the road with semi-trucks:
- Avoid blind spots and pass quickly
Many drivers are not aware that the right side of a semi-truck is the largest blind spot for a trucker. The right side can often block two, three or four lanes. Drivers should avoid spending time directly in front of a truck’s cab and behind the trailer as well, and when you do have to pass, make sure you do it as quickly, and as safely, as possible.
- Keep a safe distance
Like most of us, truckers often have to make sudden stops. However, the damage to a passenger vehicle (and the passengers themselves) is much more catastrophic when they rear end a large semi-truck. Moreover, semis often experience tire blowouts and their trailers are susceptible to forcing a rollover due to strong gusts of wind. Make sure to keep a safe distance from semis in order to avoid potential accidents resulting from this.
- Drive defensively
Driving a vehicle down the highway is most likely second nature to most drivers. But no matter how relaxed you may be with the process, drives should always take extra care when driving near large semi-trucks. The mere size and weight mean they are slower to react. Take a more defensive driving approach when around semis so you can anticipate any potential sudden change on the road, and react accordingly.
- Always signal
As mentioned above, semis are slower to react than most passenger vehicles. This means they take more time to respond to other cars stopping, turning or merging. For this reason it’s important to give notice to truckers and use your signal to alert them of any upcoming changes. This allows truck drivers time to anticipate your move and slow down or change lanes safely.
- Dim bright lights
Unlike passenger cars, semis have large mirrors surrounding them so they can see as much of the road as possible. Unfortunately, this means they have more light reflecting into their cabin than the typical vehicle. This light reflection can cause temporary blindness for truckers, so it’s important to dim your hi-beams when driving around semis.
There are many differences between passenger vehicles and semi-trucks. Many of these differences can mean drivers are at an increased risk of a significant accident when encountering big-rigs on the road. Drivers can minimize this risk by knowing how to drive safely around them.
Accidents to happen, however. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a semi-truck, contact an experienced and qualified semi-truck accident attorney to ensure your rights are protected and you are fully compensated for your injuries.