Road Injury Prevention & Litigation Journal
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A Crash Course in How to Steer Clear of Trucks
(This article is reproduced, with permission, from Volume 7, Issue 4 of the Nevada Milepost,
published by the Nevada T2 Center at the University of Nevada, Reno.)
There is good news and bad news about highway safety concerning cars and big
trucks. First, the bad news:
- More than 250,000 crashes involving passenger cars and large trucks
occur each year.
- In more than 70 percent of fatal crashes involving autos and big trucks,
police report that the automobile driver contributed to the cause of the
- Most crashes between automobiles and trucks occur during daylight on
straight and dry pavement under good weather conditions.
- Because trucks are so much bigger and heavier than cars, the driver of
the car is killed in fatal car-truck collisions four out of five times.
Now, the good news Many of these crashes could be avoided if motorists knew about
truck limitations and how to steer clear of unsafe situations involving trucks.
Remember, trucks don't drive like cars
Seems obvious, doesn't it? But while most people realize that it's more difficult to drive
a truck than a car, many don't know exactly what a truck's limitations are in terms of
maneuverability, stopping distances and blind spots. So here's a handy rule of thumb:
Generally speaking, the bigger they are:
- the bigger their blind spots.
- the more room they need to maneuver.
- the longer it takes them to stop.
- the longer it takes to pass them.
- the more likely you're going to be the loser in a collision.
The following are some specific situations that come up when you're sharing the road
- Passing - When cars cut in too soon after passing, then abruptly slow
down, truck drivers are forced to compensate with little time or room to
spare. Because it takes longer to pass a large vehicle, you should
maintain a consistent speed when passing and be sure you can see the
cab of the truck in your rear-view mirror before pulling in front.
- Backing up - When a truck is backing up, it sometimes must temporarily
block the street to maneuver its trailer accurately. Never pass close
behind a truck that is preparing to back up or is in the process of backing
up. Remember, most trailers are 8-feet wide and can completely hide
objects that suddenly come between them and a loading area. So if you
try to pass behind the truck, you enter a blind spot for you and the truck
- Rear blind spots - Unlike cars, trucks have deep blind spots directly
behind them. Avoid tailgating in this blind spot. The truck driver can't see
your car in this position, and your own view of traffic flow is severely
reduced. Following too closely greatly increases your chance of a rear-
end collision with a truck.
- Side blind spots - Trucks have much larger side blind spots than
passenger vehicles. When you drive in these blind spots for any length of
time, you can't be seen by truck drivers. If a truck driver needs to change
lanes quickly for any reason, a serious crash could occur.
- Wide turns - Truck drivers sometimes need to swing wide to the left to
negotiate a right turn. They cannot see cars directly behind or beside
them. Cutting to the right between the truck and the curb or shoulder
increases the possibility of a crash.
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