If you’re on the highway or even cruising down city streets, you’re going to have to share the road with big trucks and buses. Being in a passenger vehicle, even a hefty SUV, you might feel a bit nervous when you’re in close proximity to a semi-truck, particularly if you’re traveling at highway speeds or you’re close to one that’s making a turn. That truck is a LOT bigger and heavier than your car. There are a few things you can do to be cautious while driving around trucks, the first of which is to be aware of the truck’s blind spots, long stopping distance, and limited maneuverability. Here are some tips for sharing the road with trucks.
10 things to know about driving around trucks.
1. Know the blind spots.
Trucks and buses have blind spots on each side. A good rule of thumb to know when driving around trucks is that if you can’t see the truck driver in the side mirror, they most likely cannot see you. So, you’ve got to plan to either speed up or slow down to avoid these spots and stay in the truck driver’s sight. Be particularly careful if you have to merge. The driver needs to be able to see you in order to keep from hitting you.
2. Know how pass safely.
Okay, the reality is that trucks are slow – they have to go slower than passenger cars. So you might want to pass them, and it’s important to know how to do that safely. Here’s how to pass a truck:
- Check that you can see the driver in the mirror.
- Signal, then move into the left lane. (Don’t pass from the right.)
- Speed up so you can pass the truck quickly and safely, not hanging out in the blind spots.
- Check that the truck is visible in your mirror before changing lanes again – give them plenty of space.
- Don’t pass on a downward slope – gravity causes them to gain speed.
If a truck should be passing you, stick to the right. Slow it down to let them pass and give them room. You have to let the truck have lots of space when they change lanes or merge.
3. Don’t cut in front of a truck.
If you cut off a truck or bus, that could lead to disaster. You could end up moving through a blind spot, so you might come out of nowhere. And even if the truck driver can see you when you move directly in front of them, they may not be able to stop or slow down quickly enough. Remember, it takes time for a truck to stop or even slow down.
4. Don’t follow too closely.
Give the truck plenty of personal space. Don’t follow too closely. If you’re tailgating, you’re in a blind spot. Also, if something bad happened and there’s a crash, you could be pushed underneath the truck. (They’re higher off the ground than you might think.) If you’ve stopped behind a truck, stay a good distance back. The truck could roll back, especially if you’re on an incline.
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5. Know that trucks make wide turns.
Since buses and trucks have such a wide turn radius, they will swing out very wide to turn. Or they might even start a turn from a middle lane. Don’t get too close to a turning semi (and especially don’t be between the turning truck and the curb.) Be conscious of where you stop, too, when driving around trucks. Don’t block an intersection or stop in front of the line. That lets trucks turn safely.
6. Don’t get angry.
Trucks and buses aren’t the fastest vehicles on the road. They need plenty of time to pick up sped after being stopped. And they’re not going to be traveling at high speeds. There isn’t really anything to be gained by doing things like honking or driving aggressively – and in fact, that can cause distractions or accidents. So, have a little patience and refrain from weaving in and out between cars when driving around trucks.
7. Buckle your seatbelt.
Don’t forget to make sure everyone is buckled up. Seatbelts are extremely important for safety. It only takes a second to click the seatbelt, and that second can make a big difference. Also, if you’ve got kids in the car, make sure they’re in the backseat and buckled into the appropriate car seat.
8. Don’t drive distracted.
You need to keep your attention on the road. Should anything come up that you have to take care of, for example, an important call, pull over safely before addressing it. You can always call someone back when you’re parked in a safe place. Driving distracted is extremely dangerous – just as dangerous as driving impaired. So, eyes on the road – for your safety, the safety of your passengers, and that of the other drivers on the road.
9. Don’t drive if you’re overly tired.
If you’re overly tired, you aren’t at the top of your game. Should you be feeling too tired, there are a few simple things you can do. You can take a break and walk around a bit. You can switch off driving with someone if you’ve got another driver in the car. Or you can get yourself to a safe place where you can have a proper rest. Once you feel recharged, alert, and ready to resume driving, you can hit the road again. Sometimes you just have to refresh and take a little break.
10. Don’t drive impaired.
You also shouldn’t drive impaired. Alcohol and other substances can hurt your reaction time and your decision-making. There isn’t really a “safe” level for drinking before driving. Also, be aware that certain medications can cause lightheadedness, drowsiness, or impaired reaction time, whether it’s over-the-counter or prescription. If one of your medications causes such effects, make other arrangements. Let someone else drive or ask for a ride.
It can be a bit nerve-wracking to share the road with trucks. They’re a lot larger than passenger cars. However, there are a few things you can do to stay safe while driving around trucks. You just have to be aware of the hazards truck drivers are up against and keep out of the danger spots.
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