Truck accidents are more common than you might think. Each year, more than 140,000 Americans suffer catastrophic injuries or worse due to accidents involving semi-trucks or other large vehicles. Many of these crashes are preventable when everyone on the road understands how to safely maneuver around large trucks. To help reduce future accidents, our team has put together these five tips to help you prevent a truck accident.
Identifying the No-Zone
Preventing truck crashes starts by understanding a truck’s blind spots, also called its “no-zone.” The no-zone describes an area around a semi-truck where the driver has zero visibility due to the vehicle’s height and length. Unfortunately, most drivers aren’t aware of this, and some truck drivers neglect the limitations of their no-zone, which can lead to severe or catastrophic crashes when a truck attempts to change lanes.
A truck driver typically cannot see 20ft in front of their vehicle or 30ft behind their trailer. That means if a driver passes a truck and then quickly merges into their lane, the truck driver may not see them. Even if the truck driver does see them, it can be challenging to avoid a crash as the truck’s size and weight make it difficult to slow down quickly.
The no-zone also extends to the driver’s left and right. Some trucks have a sign on their trailer stating, “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” This is not only misleading; it can actually be dangerous.
Typically, truck drivers can’t see cars to their immediate left as the mirrors are pointed to view traffic far behind. At the same time, the truck driver is too high off the ground to see vehicles directly beneath their window. Additionally, the passenger-side mirror is convex, meaning that it reflects a distorted image that prevents truck drivers from seeing the two lanes to their immediate right.
In other words, you should be able to see a truck’s mirrors when passing them, but that doesn’t mean the driver can see you. Often, the truck driver can only see if you if can see their reflection in the mirror. Unfortunately, these poorly-phrased signs can have potentially deadly consequences.
Once you understand how the no-zone works, you can address passing technique. Make sure there are about three car lengths of space before you attempt to pass a truck. If the trucker is paying attention, this extra space will help them see you as soon as your turn signal goes on. If you change lanes too close to their trailer, you may unknowingly be in their no-zone until you complete the pass.
Try to pass quickly if it is safe to do so. Avoid lingering next to the truck, especially when close to the cab, as it’s more difficult for the truck driver to see you there. The sooner you pass a truck, the less likely you are to be in a truck accident.
Most importantly, make sure you only pass semi-trucks on the left, even if they are in the fast lane. Because a truck’s right-side blindspot is so wide, the truck driver may not see you as they attempt to merge back into the travel lane.
Once you’ve passed the truck, you should not merge back into their lane too quickly. Just as you provided a few car lengths of extra space before attempting to pass, you should give a few more car lengths before attempting to merge into their lane.
Best practices suggest that you should wait to merge until you can see the entire truck in your mirrors. This will give the truck driver time to see you and anticipate your movements. Many drivers don’t realize that if you merge too quickly, the truck driver may have to slam the brakes, which dramatically increases the likelihood of a crash or a jacknife trailer.
Give Them Space
When it comes to large trucks, it’s best to give them a wide berth whenever you can. You should avoid going bumper to bumper with them whether you’re at their front end or the back of their trailer.
Trucks are large and heavy, and some drivers don’t realize that means they need more time and distance to slow down. If you’re following too closely at the back and the truck driver hits their brakes, you may not be able to respond in time to prevent a crash. Likewise, If you merge too close to the front of the truck and then hit the brakes, the truck driver may not be able to safely slow down, assuming they can see your brake lights at all.
Don’t wait until you’re right behind a truck to change lanes. If you see yourself “creeping up” on them, it’s best to change lanes as soon as it is safe to do so.
The Four-Second Rule
If you’re still not sure, try using the four-second rule when determining a safe following distance for trucks or any other kind of highway traffic. The four seconds refers to how much time you need to safely slow down at highway speeds of 55-70 mph.
To calculate the four-second rule, choose a dotted yellow line ahead of you. When the nearest vehicle passes that mark, count by Mississippis. If you get a four-count or more, you’re driving at a safe distance. If your count is 1-2 Mississippis, you may need to let off the gas and give the other driver some space.
If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries or wrongful death in a trucking accident, we are here for you. To discuss your crash with an experienced Kansas City Truck accident attorney from Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman, send us an email or call us at (816) 542-5999 for a free consultation.