Safety Tips for Driving Around Semi-Trucks

Oct 4, 2017

Semi-trucks often give drivers the most anxiety while driving on the road, and rightfully so. These large trucks are technically 80,000lbs of hurling metal that pose a concern to driver safety. However, the reality is, if each of us does our part and respects the semis on the road, there is a lot less to be nervous about. At the end of the day, a majority of truck accidents are caused by drivers in a passenger car.

I-25 is a crucial highway that serves nearly 16,000 trucks per day. Anytime you drive on Colorado’s highways, whether in the city or through the mountains, you are bound to drive by multiple semi-trucks. What are the keys to making sure you stay safe while passing them? Where are their blind spots? Why is that truck swerving so much, making you nervous to even pass them?

These are common thoughts that run through a driver’s mind as they set off to their destination, especially on longer trips. However, it’s important to remember that truck drivers have gone through testing to acquire their CDL license to become, at the core, professional drivers. They will typically be the big tortious on the road, doing their part in keeping others safe. We, as regular drivers, need to be mindful of what these drivers are up against so we can stay safe while sharing the road. If you or someone you know has been involved in a truck collision contact the Paul Wilkinson injury attorneys today,

Here are some safety tips for you and your family to consider when driving near or around large trucks.

1. Pass them, don’t drive next to them

Anyone can admit that driving next to a truck is simply not as leisurely as driving independently with no one on either side of you. With that said, traffic can oftentimes pose a challenge here, making it a bit more difficult to pass a semi-truck without getting stuck next to them.

Trucks have a handful of blind spots, and the biggest ones are on the right and left sides. If you want to pass the truck, wait until the car in front of you has fully cleared the side of the truck so you can pass them in one swift acceleration. Do what you can to stay either behind or in front of the semi, not next to them.

When passing a large truck, you’re safer to pass on the left side of the truck because that is the side the driver is on. The driver will have more visibility into their own side of the vehicle than they will the right side, meaning that they will be more aware of your presence as you go by.

2. Avoid their Blind Spots

As mentioned, semi-trucks have more blind spots than one might imagine. The image below shows where these blind spots are, and where you should avoid hanging out at all costs. If the truck driver cannot see you, you are running the risk that they may change lanes, swerve to avoid debris, or accelerate/decelerate without knowing that your car is in the way.

The primary blind spots to be aware of are:

  • Directly in front of the truck.
  • Nearly the entire right side of the truck, spanning to nearly two lanes.
  • Directly behind the truck.
  • Nearly half of the left side of the truck, behind the tractor.

Being aware of these blind spots alone can save your life and the life of those around you on the road. Too many times, drivers think these semis should be at the beck and call of other drivers on the road, but the reality is, it’s much easier to maneuver a regular, passenger vehicle than a 40-ton semi-truck. There are physical limitations that these drivers have to deal with, such as blind spots nearly all around them, that we as drivers need to understand and respect in order to safely share the road.

3. Try not to drive in front of them

Driving in front of a semi-truck is not a huge deal when there is no traffic or inclement weather. However, if you are in a position that you find yourself slamming on the breaks through stop and go traffic, or even driving on icy roads, it’s best to avoid driving directly in front of a semi-truck. If a truck is going 60 mph, it could, in some cases, take them the distance of three football fields to come to a full stop. If you stop abruptly in front of them, or they have icy roads to deal with on top of the slower stopping time, they could plow through whatever is in front of them. You don’t want your vehicle to be the one in the way in this scenario.

Now, of course, truck drivers will usually maintain a safe distance from the vehicles in front of them to allow themselves enough time to stop. However, if you want to simply play it safe, avoid that position when you can.

4. Don’t cut in front of them

As mentioned above, one of the blind spots that truck drivers have to deal with is directly in front of their vehicle. Whether you’re merging on the highway or changing lanes, there are certainly best practices to keep in mind for the safety of everyone in your vehicle.

When changing lanes, first and foremost, use a blinker. Keep your blinker on for at least 5 – 10 seconds to make sure the driver sees your intent to merge in front of them. Second, continue driving ahead of the semi until you can see both headlights, and ideally the whole nose of the semi-truck in your side view mirror. This will be a helpful identifier that you have been in their line of sight for long enough that the truck driver is most likely aware that you are merging. After all, awareness is key to safe driving, no matter what vehicle you are in.

5. Don’t tailgate

This is another tip based on the blind spots of a truck. The kicker here is that a semi-truck sits higher than regular vehicles. When traveling behind large trucks that need to brake quickly, a collision would occur at the level of your windshield rather than your bumper. The results are self-explanatory. Don’t tailgate anybody, especially semi-trucks.

6. Give them plenty of space to make turns

Wide turns are a real thing, and the bigger the truck, the wider the turn. If you are at an intersection, mind the lines to stay behind. You may even benefit from staying a few feet further back at busy intersections, especially if you are in a turning lane. Trucks will usually go wide to allow themselves enough room, but they need the cooperation of those of us on the road as well to make sure they can get by without running into another car.

7. Watch out for drifting

We’ve all been there – driving down the highway and we see a truck that keeps swerving in and out of their lane. They must be drunk, right? Maybe he’s falling asleep and needs to get off the road? It’s possible but hopefully, that is not the case. Of course, there are bad apples out there, but usually, truck drivers know better.

The primary cause of this could be simple – the wind. When semi-trucks don’t have any cargo in their bed and are driving back from making a delivery, they are very susceptible to the wind due to the lighter weight they are toeing. High winds can push the semi-truck from side to side, making it so they have to swerve to avoid tipping over. Now, if a semi-truck driver finds themselves in a high wind storm, they should probably get off the road, and they probably will if it is making that much of an impact on their driving abilities. But you might be the one seeing them experience the winds initially picking up.

What do you do in this situation? Avoid them. Whether that means slowing your speed to stay well behind them, or finding an opportunity to pass them on the left side, get away from them and give them plenty of space.

8. Stay off your phone

Stay off your phone in general while driving, whether you are around a semi-truck or not. This is especially important, however, if you are around a semi. The 3 seconds that you look down to check your phone could be the 3 seconds that it takes to collide into a semi-truck or neighboring vehicle near a semi-truck. Accidents are much more likely to be fatal when there are semi-trucks involved, and we all owe it to each other to be vigilant when driving near, next to, or around a semi. Unfortunately, texting is one of the leading causes of collisions that Denver truck accident lawyers see.

9. Wear your seatbelt

Regardless of the collision, those who wear their seatbelt have a much higher chance of survival than those who do not. When it comes to a semi-truck, the truth only becomes more amplified. Wear your seatbelt, it’s simple.

10. Drive sober

When driving after a few drinks, there is no question that your judgment, depth perception, and decision making will be altered. Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of fatal vehicular deaths in Colorado, and it’s important to note that truck collisions become an even bigger threat to those with dimmed judgment on the road. Stay sober behind the wheel, and you’ll save not only your own life but the lives of those around you.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a truck collision and is looking for a truck accident attorney, it’s important to find the right help. Our Denver legal team is dedicated to providing the utmost care for our clients, and we will fight for your best interest rather than settling on the first offer. We are happy to be the sounding board that will help you determine your next steps in such an accident.

For more information about the Paul Wilkinson Law Firm, contact us at 303-333-7285.

The Paul Wilkinson Law Firm | Website | + posts

The Paul Wilkinson Law Firm is a team of personal injury attorneys in Denver, CO serving victims of car, truck and motorcycle accidents. Each of our lawyers is licensed with the Colorado State Bar (CBA) and specialize in injury law.

We've recovered tens of millions of dollars in personal injury settlements and verdicts for our clients. For 13+ years we've helped thousands of people get back on their feet after experiencing serious injuries. We will take your case to trial and get the maximum settlement possible.

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