Share the Road to Save a Life

Most drivers don't give semi-trucks a second thought—until they're stuck behind one in traffic and don't have a lane to pass in. For the majority of drivers, big rig trucks are an annoyance on the road and nothing more.

Semi-trucks are much larger than the average car and take up more space. They drive slower, stop slower, and need a much wider turning radius on city streets. We've all been guilty of it before—groaning in frustration or even laying on the horn when we find ourselves driving behind a large truck that just doesn't move fast enough.

Semi-trucks are more important to the American economy than you may realize.

If trucks stopped taking up space on roads in the US, the results could be devastating.

According to an ATA study, in just 24 hours:

Medical supply delivery to those in need would stop.

Hospitals would run out of basic supplies, like syringes.

Gas stations would start to run low on fuel.

On-demand manufacturers would run out of components.

Package delivery and US mail would stop.

Food shortages would begin within just one day.

Gas prices would skyrocket due to supply and demand.

After 2 to 3 days without trucks running across America:

Food shortages would increase to cause widespread panic and hoarding.

Essential supplies would sell out, i.e. canned goods, powdered milk, and bottled water.

ATMs would run out of cash; banks would be unable to process transactions.

Gas stations would run out of fuel for all vehicles.

Garbage would begin to pile up in neighborhoods and on city streets.

The picture this paints sounds more like a post-apocalyptic society than a country in need of semi-trucks to deliver basic necessities each day.

After just two weeks without large trucks, the nation would start to run out of clean water. After four weeks, clean water resources would be exhausted, and illnesses among the population would start to increase.

Commercial truck drivers deserve greater support for their commitment to their job.

Semi-truck drivers are legally allowed to drive for up to 11 hours a day. A full time driver with a CDL could drive over 2750 hours a year on average.

If you've ever doubted the need for large trucks on the road, you may now have a greater appreciation for their purpose and value.

Trucks deserve our respect and awareness anytime we get behind the wheel. There are millions of semi-trucks on roads in the US on any given day. This doesn't account for other large commercial vehicles; UPS alone has over 60,000 trucks in its fleet.

Atlas van lines surveys its drivers annually.

here’s what they told us about themselves:

How many miles per year do you normally drive your truck?
28% 40% 13% 14%

Less than
50,000 miles

50,000-
74,999 miles

75,000-
99,999 miles

100,000-
124,999 miles

How many weeks per year do you spend on the road?
33% 15% 27% 25%

Less than
20 wks

20-30 wks

31-40 wks

More than
40 wks

SOURCE: atlasvanlines.com

Understanding the modern day truck driver can help you to have more compassion whenever you share the road with a commercial vehicle.

According to US Department of Transportation statistics,

Roughly 500,000 trucking accidents take place each year in the United States.

5000 of these accidents result in death.

One out of eight traffic accidents involve a large truck collision.

The good news for the American economy is that the commercial trucking business is booming— trucking revenue is expected to double from its current $610 billion estimate by 2015. But for the average driver, this means more large trucks on the road. Cars, small trucks, SUVs, and vans that drive carelessly without regard for commercial trucks could unintentionally cause a serious or fatal accident.

Drivers of passenger vehicles are especially vulnerable in a trucking accident.

In 2010, commercial trucks traveled 286,585 million miles

72%

of accident fatalities were passenger vehicle occupants.

14%

of accident fatalities were truck occupants.

13%

of accident fatalities were motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians.

Truck accident fatalities rose by 8% compared to 2009.

75% of truck accident fatalities were
tractor-trailers; 25% were single large trucks.

As you can see from the accident statistics above, passenger vehicle occupants are often more affected in a truck versus car crash. Driver awareness is a must on the road for both motorists and truck drivers.

We'll dig deeper into how to safely share the road with a large vehicle in the next section.

Driver Awareness Is Key

If you're behind a truck on a busy city street or crowded highway, watch out. Statistics indicate that:

urban areas

68% of all fatal truck accidents take place in urban areas compared to rural regions.

Night Time

Roughly 66% of all fatal truck crashes occur at night.

Weekend

With 78% on weekends.

According to 2010 statistics

Fatal Truck-car crashes in 2010

HEAD-ON

Who crossed the center line?

87%

Car

13%

Truck

REAR-END

Who hit the other vehicle?

76%

Car

24%

Truck

In these car versus truck collisions, which driver is to blame? Although every crash is unique, and drivers of both large and small vehicles can make mistakes that result in accidents, passenger vehicle drivers are likely the ones to blame. In most cases, when a passenger car crashes into a large truck, it is the fault of the passenger car driver.

The cause of such a serious car-truck accident is often simple: speeding. In 2010, 27% of large truck accidents involving multiple vehicles were caused by speeding. 53% of passenger vehicle accidents in the same year were caused by speeding. Other potential contributors to large truck accidents included distraction, failure to stay in a lane, obscured vision, failure to yield, impairment, and failure to obey traffic signs, among other factors.

To take it a step further, National Truck Driver Appreciation Week in 2013 brought 5 specific circumstances to light that could lead to a serious car-truck crash:

5 specific circumstances that could lead to a serious car-truck crash:

Night driving

Drowsy driving is an increasing danger for the over-the-road truck driver and average motorist alike. Drivers of passenger vehicles must remain vigilant and realize that truckers may be more likely to nod off after dusk.

Construction zones

It can be difficult, if not impossible, for a semi-truck driver to navigate through a treacherous construction zone. Passenger vehicles should respect a large truck by offering even more following distance and room for turning.

Dangerous turns

Many semi-trucks advertise the need for a large turning radius on the back of their commercial vehicle. Still, drivers often try to turn quickly around a large truck on a crowded road in order to save time; such a dangerous, ill-advised turn could lead to a serious accident for the passenger vehicle.

Merging

Commercial trucks have the freedom to merge onto almost any road because of their large size. Passenger drivers should remain alert at all times and anticipate that a large truck could be merging ahead of them on the highway.

Inclement weather

It's far easier for a small car or SUV to stop quickly in rain or snow; it can take a large semi much longer to come to a safe stop in bad weather conditions. Cars should offer commercial drivers ample room and try not to slam on brakes in front of trucks in poor weather.

Mind the Blind Spot

Understanding potentially dangerous situations that could lead to a large truck crash is the first step in raising awareness for passenger vehicle drivers. But it is just as important for drivers to grasp the danger of driving in a commercial truck's blind spot.

For a driver of a passenger vehicle, sharing the road with a large truck could be a matter of life or death.

Sure, all drivers understand that a vehicle can have its blind spots outside of the view of rear and side mirrors. But if you've never driven a semi-truck, you may be shocked to learn how large this blind spot really is for an oversized vehicle.

Truck blind spots may also be referred to as "no-zones," as seen in the image below:

If you want to avoid getting hit or pinned by an 80,000 pound semi, it's critical to always travel quickly through a truck's no-zone when passing or moving in traffic.

If you are behind a truck, maintain a safe following distance so that you can be seen in a driver's side mirrors.

If you are in front of a truck in traffic, a truck driver should also allow a safe following distance so that you don't fall into the no-zone directly in front of the commercial vehicle.

The rule of semi-truck blind spots goes as follows:
If you can't see a truck's side mirrors, then the truck driver can't see you.

Road Safe America estimates that roughly 33% of all car-truck crashes occur when a driver moves into one of the many blind spots located around a commercial truck.

There's another rule of the road when it comes to commercial truck blind spots:Right is wrong.

This simply means that it is never recommended to pass a commercial truck on the right. If you're traveling on a city street or highway next to a truck in the left lane, it's best to give the driver time to make his or her way back into the right lane for slower traffic.

A truck driver may have chosen the left lane for a reason—perhaps for passing a slower car or avoiding an obstacle in the road. Even more importantly, a truck driver may have moved into the left lane to take a wide right turn. If you try to pass quickly on the right, you could easily get hit by a semi-truck as you move through its blind spot in a turn. This potentially fatal driving error is never worth the risk.

Safety Tips for Truck Drivers

Sharing the road safely doesn't fall solely on the shoulders of the average driver. Truckers must also do their parts to maintain awareness at all times, especially when driving on a crowded street with small cars zipping in and out of heavy traffic.

Commercial truck drivers with a CDL are trained to safely navigate these types of treacherous situations.

Still, a refresher course on safe commercial driving never hurts.

Professional truck drivers can heed these helpful tips every time they hit the open road in a large vehicle:

Never tailgate

It is a truck's responsibility to maintain the proper distance behind small vehicles in traffic. A truck is statistically most likely to hit a small car in front of them because of careless tailgating; it takes a truck longer to brake and stop in traffic.

Signal earlier than necessary

It's important for a trucker to understand that they must signal early on when approaching any type of intersection to turn. Passenger vehicle drivers must be given plenty of warning to move out of the way so that a truck can make a wide turn on a tight corner.

Stick with one lane

Truckers can increase safety on the road by changing lanes only when necessary; it's also imperative to signal early and check side mirrors at least every 10 seconds when changing lanes.

Use brake lights early before coming to a stop

Once again, most drivers are completely unaware how long it can take a truck to come to a complete stop. Activate brake lights early on when slowing a commercial vehicle to safely come to a full stop without getting rear-ended.

Don't speed in poor weather conditions

It can take a commercial vehicle much longer to stop safely in rain, snow, or ice; truckers are advised to drive below the speed limit when bad weather hits and to turn on flashers when necessary.

These safe driving tips are a must for professional drivers and even drivers of recreational vehicles.

If you own an RV or are renting one for a vacation, take a moment to acclimate yourself with what it takes to safely navigate an oversized vehicle through traffic with the tips above.

Commercial drivers and RV drivers are both responsible for watching their blind spots like a hawk while driving.

SOURCE: exchange.aaa.com

You may not realize how easy it is for a mid-size or smaller vehicle to slip into a blind spot and become entirely invisible to your large vehicle. Mirrors are critical when crossing traffic, but they can't account for all no-zone areas around the perimeter of a vehicle. Both RVs and trucks have large blind spots that could cause a serious or even fatal accident when overlooked.

How to Avoid a Semi–Truck Accident

Driving carelessly around a semi-truck is never worth the risk.

It's not as difficult as you think to share the road with a large truck—it just requires greater awareness on your part as a driver. If you've ever had a near miss with an 18 wheeler, then you know how chilling it can be to come close to a serious accident involving a commercial vehicle.

More often than not, the outcome will be unfavorable to the passenger vehicle driver.

Consider these top 10 road-sharing tips to avoid
a dangerous semi accident:

Don't hang out in blind spots. We said it once, and we'll say it again—never spend time driving in the no-zone of a large vehicle, even in heavy traffic.

Make it a practice never to tailgate a large truck.

Pass trucks with caution on the left and ensure consistent visibility in all blind spots.

Give yourself enough room to clear a commercial truck before moving back into the lane after passing.

Steer clear of a truck that is backing up. Remember that truck drivers don't have a traditional rearview mirror and cannot see your car behind them in their blind spot.

Always anticipate a wide turn from a truck and allow extra room.

Don't make sudden lane changes or cut-offs near a commercial truck in traffic.

Make every effort not to slam on your brakes in front of a truck in traffic.

Let a truck in when merging and yield in traffic.

Always be patient with a large truck, even if they aren't driving as fast as the flow of traffic.

Preventing a large vehicle accident is the responsibility of both the commercial driver and the passenger vehicle driver. Distracted driving is one of the most important behaviors for all drivers to avoid to greatly reduce the risk of a senseless crash.

Did you know that the average truck needs the length of 2½ football fields (700 feet) to safely change lanes at highway speed?

Some of the most common driving distractions include

zoning out

talking on a cell phone or texting

reaching for an item in the car

rubbernecking other vehicles on the road

It all comes down to awareness

While truck drivers are professionally trained to drive safely day after day, motorists must still take special precautions when driving around large vehicles to avert an accident. Most bad driving habits, like texting or speeding, seem harmless—until it's too late. Making the choice to stay aware while driving could save your life and the lives of other drivers by preventing a large vehicle crash.

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