Big trucks are dangerous, and the risks they pose to other drivers is growing.
The National Safety Council says that 5,700 big trucks were involved in fatal crashes in 2021—an 18% increase over 2020 and a 49% increase over the previous decade. A big reason for that increase is the growing number of big trucks on the road.
In order to drive safely, you need to obey the speed limit, avoid distractions, and never drive while intoxicated. But in recent years, also knowing how to drive safely around big trucks is becoming more and more important as their numbers grow.
Here are five tips you can follow to reduce your risks when driving around big trucks.
1. Avoid the Four “No Zones”
There are always risks to driving around big trucks, but driving in certain locations around them is even more dangerous. That’s because those locations are big blind spots where truck drivers can’t see if other vehicles are near them or not.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) describes these areas as No Zones, and there are four of them to avoid:
- The area directly in front of the cabin
- The area behind the trailer
- The area underneath the driver’s door
- The area underneath and behind the passenger door
As a rule of thumb, if you can’t see the driver’s mirrors from your current position on the road near the truck, there’s a good chance he can’t see you either, because you’re in a No Zone.
2. Be Cautious When Behind Right-Turning Trucks
One of the most common causes of big truck accidents is vehicles colliding with them as they make turns. In fact, this is so common that the backs of many trailers have warnings and diagrams of this exact type of crash to help drivers avoid them.
In order to make right turns without their trailers going off the road or into nearby objects, truck drivers need to take turns as wide as possible. Sometimes, that means swinging out into adjacent lanes to have enough room to complete turns. When drivers behind big trucks keep going straight and fail to slow down or stop, they can collide directly with the truck cabs or trailers while they’re turning.
3. Don’t Pass Big Trucks Unless You Have Plenty of Room
Fully loaded big trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Because of their enormous weight, they take a long time to slow down. When drivers pass big trucks in dense traffic, they can be rear-ended when their return to their original lanes if the truck drivers are unable to slow down to avoid a collision.
Never pass a big truck on a road with only one lane of travel in each direction, even when passing is permitted. And when passing a big truck on a multi-lane highway, only do so when you can put several car lengths between yourself and the truck cab. After passing a truck, maintain your speed until you’ve reached a safe distance ahead of it.
4. Increase Your Following Distance
Tailgating a big truck puts you directly in its No Zone and should be avoided at all costs. However, it’s possible to be out of a truck’s No Zone, have a clear view of the driver’s mirrors, and still be following it too closely.
When driving behind other passenger vehicles, following the 3-second rule can help you know if you’re at a safe distance. This involves waiting for the vehicle ahead of you to pass a landmark, such as a building or tree, and then counting for three seconds. If you pass the same landmark before three seconds are up, you’re following too closely.
With big trucks, you should increase this following time. At 40 mph, the FMCSA recommends one second of follow distance for every 10 feet of vehicle length, meaning around five seconds for big trucks. When traveling at speeds over 40 mph, you should add an extra second of follow distance.
5. Use Your Lights and Signals to Ensure the Driver Can See You
Staying safe around big trucks is all about being seen by their drivers. Because truck drivers sit so high up on the road, their point of view is dramatically different than other drivers’. Combine that with normal reduced visibility at night and during inclement weather and it can be difficult for truck drivers to see and track every vehicle around them.
By ensuring your headlights, taillights, and brake lights are working, and by using your turn signals when changing lanes, merging, or turning, you can make it easier for any truck drivers nearby to notice your vehicle and give you the room you need on the road.
Call Our Oklahoma Truck Accident Lawyers After a Big Truck Crash
Following the tips above can significantly reduce your chances of being involved in a crash with a big truck. Unfortunately, it can’t eliminate the possibility entirely. That’s because negligence on the part of truck drivers, companies, and owners injures countless Oklahomans every year.
If you or someone you love is injured in a big truck accident, we have the experience and aggressive legal approach you need to get full compensation. Contact Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers today for a free consultation.