Whether you call it the “No Zone” or the “Kill Zone,” the sides of a large commercial truck are no place for passenger vehicles to spend more time than necessary. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe next to Colorado’s tractor-trailers.

Avoid Deadly Accidents in Colorado Involving Large Trucks

Everyone who does any amount of interstate driving knows the dilemma all too well. You are driving on a busy highway and come upon an 18-wheeler, and you can’t decide whether to slow down and follow the truck or try to pass it. As the driver of a passenger vehicle, you may think passing alongside the truck is the best option, but when you hear what truck drivers have to say you may think differently the next time you come upon a tractor-trailer.

Truckers Call It ‘The Kill Zone’

A recent article in Popular Mechanics focuses on the dangers of 18-wheelers on the road. The danger is not so much the truck or the truck driver, but rather the mistakes that the drivers of passenger vehicles make when sharing the road with a big rig.

The truck driver highlighted his 22 years of experience and noted that one of the most dangerous things a motorist can do is drive alongside an 18-wheeler. Although you obviously have to get beside a truck while passing it, some motorists stay beside large rigs when traveling instead of passing the truck or staying behind it, and that move can be one of the deadliest moves a motorist can make.

According to the article, truckers call the space along their rig “the kill zone.” That’s because if a truck driver loses control of the rig, or has to change lanes quickly, any car next to it is going to get crushed. There is just no avoiding it if a truck driver faces a sudden emergency.

That’s why truck drivers implore the drivers of passenger vehicles to make a decision on whether to stay behind the truck or pass it. If you do decide to pass an 18-wheeler, you should do so as fast as possible and then safely move back into the right lane of the road.

Unexpected lane changes by a truck driver are not the only danger that can occur; there is also the issue of a blowout on an 18-wheeler. Truckers say a blowout can cause a tire to explode and rip off the truck. A blown tire can hit a car with such force that it knocks it off the road. As a driver, if you see a truck having a blowout, the safest thing for you to do is slow down and stay as far from the truck as possible; once the truck is brought under control, pass it quickly.

2015 a Deadly Year in Large Truck Accidents

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute noted that in 2015, more than 3,800 people died in accidents involving large trucks. Of those deaths, 16 percent were truck drivers while 69 percent were occupants of a vehicle involved in the crash. Another 15 percent of those killed were either pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. When it comes to the type of truck involved in fatal crashes, overwhelmingly, tractor-trailers, or 18-wheeler trucks, accounted for 75 percent of fatal accidents, while 25 percent involved a smaller, single-unit truck.

When it comes to motorists and their comfort level, it may not come as a surprise to learn that some 20 percent of motorists surveyed noted that they have a phobia when it comes to driving near large trucks. Anxiety levels can increase if you aren’t sure of what to do when you come upon an 18-wheeler, as their size can be quite intimidating. A national insurance company is trying to ease driver anxiety by noting some helpful tips that center on patience and awareness:

  • If a truck is about to move into your lane, don’t try to outrun it to get ahead of the truck. A truck can’t stop as fast as a car, so if you try to cut in front of a truck, you can cause an accident. Be patient, slow down, and allow the truck to merge into your lane.
  • If you are going to pass a large truck, do so with caution. Once you get past the truck, make sure you can see the front of the truck in your rear-view mirror before moving back into the same lane as the truck.
  • Lastly, make sure you give big rigs room to turn. Drivers may need to swing wide to turn, and if you are in the way, you will be hit. Always be aware of what the truck is about to do before you make a move.

Using caution, being aware, and practicing patience are the best ways safely share the road with 18-wheelers and other large commercial trucks.

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