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Dangers of Sharing the Road With 18-Wheeler Commercial Trucks

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Truck Accidents Mar 22, 2022

rearview mirror showing 18-wheelers on roadMany of the deadliest and most dangerous motor vehicle crashes involve commercial trucks, also known as 18-wheelers or semi-trucks.

These vehicles are so much larger than the passenger vehicles sharing the road with them. That means a collision is much more likely to cause catastrophic damage to the passenger vehicle, increasing the risk of severe injury.

Below, we discuss the dangers of sharing the road with commercial trucks in the context of safe driving around these vehicles. These tips may reduce your risk of being involved in one of the common types of commercial truck crashes.

If you were injured in a crash with a commercial truck, our Maryland truck accident lawyers are ready to help you seek compensation for your damages. Give us a call to schedule a free legal consultation. If we validate your claim and you decide to hire us, there are no upfront costs and no fees while we pursue compensation.

How Can You Reduce Your Crash Risk Near an 18-Wheeler?

Our 10 tips for safe driving around commercial trucks include:

  • Stay Away from Blind Spots
  • Avoid Sudden Braking
  • Follow at a Safe Distance
  • Prepare for Wide Turns
  • Keep Your Distance
  • Stay Focused on Driving and Your Surroundings
  • Do Not Cut Off a Commercial Truck
  • Give Truck Drivers More Time to React to You
  • Be Patient
  • Avoid Drowsy or Impaired Driving

1.      Stay Away From Blind Spots

Every vehicle has blind spots, but the blind spots for commercial trucks are much larger than the blind spots on either side of your passenger vehicle. Commercial trucks have huge blind spots on all four sides:

  • 20 feet in front of the cab
  • 30 feet of the rear of the trailer
  • Lane to the left of the truck from the middle of the trailer to the sideview mirror
  • Two lanes to the right of the truck between the sideview mirror and front of the trailer – the blind spot extends diagonally backward

If you find yourself in a commercial truck’s blind spot, slow down or change lanes when it is safe to do so. You want to quickly get to a position where the driver can see you with his or her eyes and/or with the truck’s mirrors. Always remember that the driver cannot see you if you cannot see the mirrors.

Many of the worst commercial truck crashes involve passenger vehicles that were in the commercial truck’s blind spot. These crashes can occur with such force they can cause catastrophic damage to a passenger vehicle, increasing the risk of severe or fatal injuries.

2.      Avoid Sudden Braking

Commercial trucks take much longer to stop than other vehicles because they are so large. They need more time and more space to slow down or come to a complete stop.

If you are in front of a truck, make sure to not slam on the brakes because you may put yourself at increased risk of a rear-end crash, particularly if you are in the blind spot in front of the truck.

If you are concerned about being in front of a commercial truck, change lanes or try to increase your distance while obeying the speed limit.

3.      Follow at a Safe Distance

Rear-end crashes are always dangerous, but this is especially true if you crash into the back of a commercial truck. The bottom of the trailer is much higher than the hood of your car, which means your car could slip under it. The bottom of the trailer could even penetrate your windshield. These are called underride crashes.

That is why it is important to follow commercial trucks at a safe distance. Typically, you want to leave three seconds between the front of your vehicle and the rear of the vehicle in front of you. That means there are three seconds between the time the vehicle in front of you passes a fixed object and when you pass the same fixed object. You should increase that following distance to four seconds when the vehicle in front of you is a commercial truck.

You may want to leave more time between your vehicle and the one in front of you in bad weather, or when there is limited visibility, particularly if the vehicle in front of you is a commercial truck.

One of the benefits of increasing your following distance is you have more time to react to tire blowouts or rollovers. Commercial trucks are hauling tens of thousands of pounds in cargo, which puts tremendous stress on the tires. Staying farther back is also a good idea at a stoplight because the truck could roll backward.

4.      Prepare for Wide Turns

18-wheelers need a lot of space to make turns. You will often see drivers turn right from the center lane or veer over toward the center lane before making the turn.

If you are in a lane next to a commercial truck, be prepared if you approach an intersection where the truck driver may turn. You may want to slow down or even change lanes to give the truck the room it needs. Watch for a turn signal and respond accordingly.

If you are on the right side of a semi-truck that is about to turn right, you should hang back to avoid getting pinned between the trailer and the curb. You should never attempt to pass an 18-wheeler while it is turning or when it is flashing a turn signal.

5.      Keep Your Distance

At some point you will probably be driving near a commercial truck. However, you should avoid lingering next to an 18-wheeler for very long. Change lanes, slow down or speed up while staying within the speed limit.

Large trucks can kick up dirt and rocks that could affect your visibility. You also cannot see over or around a truck, which means you have less warning if cars in front of the truck suddenly stop.

6.      Stay Focused on Driving and Your Surroundings

This is always important, whether you are sharing the road with a commercial truck or not. Avoid distractions and reckless actions.

By staying focused on driving, it is easier to notice when you are in one of the driver’s blind spots. You will also be aware when the truck slows down or is about to turn or change lanes.

You should also remember truck drivers are often reckless. They work long hours and may be fatigued. That could make them more likely to make a mistake and cause a crash. Correcting a mistake is much more difficult behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler than a smaller passenger vehicle.

Taking your eyes off the road for just a few seconds can be incredibly dangerous. So much can happen in that time, and when you turn your eyes back to the road you may not have enough time to react to avoid a crash.

7.      Do Not Cut Off a Commercial Truck

One of the driver’s blind spots is 20 feet in front of the cab. If you cut the truck off, the driver cannot see you. Cutting a truck off is also dangerous because the back of your car is really close to the front of the truck. If your bumper hits the front of the cab at a certain angle, your car could spin out. You could lose control and end up in an incredibly dangerous accident.

It is best to wait until you can see the driver in your rearview mirror before moving in front of a commercial truck. If you cannot get far enough ahead of the truck to safely change lanes, it is better to wait to change lanes. If there is another lane to your left or right, maybe you should move into it and get farther ahead of the truck before attempting to move into the same lane as the truck.

It is generally best to pass a truck on the left rather than the right. It is easier for the driver to see you, and generally, faster traffic is supposed to move into the left lane, not the right lane.  

8.      Give Truck Drivers More Time to React to You

For example, before merging in front of a truck, make sure you can see the driver and wait a few seconds. That increases the odds the driver will see you.

9.      Be Patient

This is an important tip no matter who you are sharing the road with. You need to give truck drivers more time to react to you and wait until it is safe to make certain maneuvers. Accidents often happen when drivers are in a rush or do not wait to make sure it is safe to do something, like change lanes or turn.

The risks of tailgating far outweigh the benefits, especially if you are tailgating an 18-wheeler. Slow down and change lanes if you want to go faster. However, speed limits are there for a reason. Make sure to obey them.

10.  Avoid Drowsy or Impaired Driving

Unfortunately, many people get nowhere near enough sleep each night. People are often much more tired than they realize, especially when they are behind the wheel. When you are tired, your reaction time is not what it should be. You may struggle to stay focused on driving and may be at risk for falling asleep behind the wheel, depending on how tired you are.

If you feel tired, have someone else drive, or use a ridesharing service. Get some rest before getting behind the wheel. You may not know this but driving while fatigued is like driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

It goes without saying how dangerous it is to drive while drunk. Many of the worst crashes involve impaired drivers. Mixing an impaired driver with a commercial truck could be fatal. Get a ride from a friend or call a ridesharing service or a taxi if you have been drinking. Planning can also help you avoid impaired driving. For example, you can designate a sober driver.

Contact Us Today for Experienced Legal Help

When a commercial truck crash occurs, there is a lot of confusion, stress and anxiety for victims. During this difficult time, it is important to discuss what happened with a licensed attorney. These cases are complex and significant compensation may be available, which means trucking companies and insurers are going to work hard to avoid paying the full value of the claim.

You need an experienced attorney with a history of results behind you when seeking compensation for medical expenses and other damages. Many injured victims who hire an attorney recover more compensation than those who seek compensation on their own.

At The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl, we have secured hundreds of millions on behalf of our clients. Our services are provided on contingency, which means no upfront fees.

Experienced Attorneys. Millions Recovered. Call 410-244-7005

Contact our personal injury lawyers for a free consultation if you have been injured by another’s negligence. You may be entitled to compensation.

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