There are approximately 2 million semi-trucks and almost 6 million trailers on the road in the U.S., logging many billions of miles. That’s a lot of trucks and a lot of miles, so how can drivers of passenger vehicles stay safe?

In just a few short weeks, about 80 percent of the country will celebrate Easter. While this holiday is generally not thought of as one of the busiest travel holidays of the year, USA Today does rank it among the top 10 worst travel periods due to heavier traffic on our roads and at airports. Keeping everyone safe should be a priority, not only on holidays but every day.

Those who travel in personal vehicles know that they’ll be sharing the road with 18-wheelers, which can be a little scary at times. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2013 there were an estimated 326,000 truck accidents in the United States. In those accidents, 69,000 people were injured and another 3,500 were killed.

The NHTSA explained that drivers of passenger vehicles often are intimidated when they come upon a large truck on the road. And there’s good reason to be. The legal weight for an 18-wheeler is 80,000 pounds. The average automobile weighs about 5,000 pounds. That’s a huge difference and the reason why drivers need to stay alert when they are approaching a truck or when they see a truck coming up behind them.

Sharing the Road With a Big Rig

There are approximately 2 million semi trucks and almost 6 million trailers on the road in the U.S., logging many billions of miles. That’s a lot of trucks and a lot of miles, so the question is: How do you, as a driver of a passenger vehicle, stay safe? According to truck drivers, it’s important that vehicles give trucks space and here’s why:

  • Truckers have a huge blind spot to the right and rear of the truck. Small blind spots are also located on the right front corner and mid-left side of the truck. It’s important to stay where you can be seen.
  • Just like a train’s conductor, a truck driver can’t just hit the brakes and immediately stop. Trucks need 40% more room to come to a complete stop than a passenger vehicle. That’s why a sudden stop in front of an 18-wheeler can lead to disaster.
  • Trucks are prone to blowouts, or the failure of a tire. If you’ve driven on the interstate, you’ve probably seen large pieces of rubber on the road. If an 18-wheeler has a blowout, rubber will start flying, which means it’s best to keep your distance. Also, if a truck has a blowout, the driver may start swerving until the truck can be completely controlled.
  • Trucks can be like sails, and if a heavy wind comes up, the driver may have trouble controlling one, especially if what it’s carrying is light or the truck is empty.

How Can You Help Truckers?

The most important thing a driver can do is to stay alert and make sure a truck driver sees you. If you want to pass a truck, remember about 18-wheelers’ blind spots, and make sure there is room to quickly get out of the way. It’s best to pass a truck on the left side. Drivers should never cut in front of an 18-wheeler and should always use turn signals to alert the truck driver of their next move.

And finally, get in the habit of using the 3-second rule to determine the proper distance between you and any vehicle you’re following (not just trucks). As the vehicle ahead of you passes a landmark, start counting slowly — you shouldn’t reach the landmark until you’ve counted to at least three.

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