Eighteen wheelers are not only big, they are dangerous. They can crush a car in an instant. A fully loaded 18 wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. The average car weighs 4,000 pounds. So there’s no contest.
Yes, it’s frustrating when trucks slow traffic on two lane roads or interstates, especially when they try to pass each other. That can take a while for a reason.
Speed causes more accidents on American roads than anything else. Some trucking companies put governors on truck engines to keep drivers from speeding and putting you in danger. Now that you know why some trucks are so slow, let’s review their blind spots. Drive in one of them and the trucker can’t see you. That’s dangerous.
There are four of them:
- one on the right side near the trucker’s door;
- one on the left side near the passenger door;
- one directly in front
- and one directly in back.
That’s why you should never speed up behind a truck and stay on its back bumper. Tailgating could get you killed. If the trucker has to hit his brakes suddenly, you could be in an underride accident - one of the deadliest collisions on the road. That’s when a tailgating car slides under a truck. The impact shaves the top off the car, decapitating its occupants.
In 2011, 350 people died that way. Others were permanently maimed. It’s still happening on U.S. roads.
So stay 20 to 25 car lengths behind a big truck. That’s about four seconds back. The distance allows you to see what’s ahead of the truck so you can adjust your speed and reaction time to avoid an accident and decide when to pass.
Always pass on the left side. And don’t linger. When your car nears the trucker’s door, you are in a blind spot. The trucker could change lanes or veer suddenly to the left to avoid debris in the road without knowing you are there. Keep up a steady speed and get past the truck.
Don’t cut in front once you are beyond it. The truck’s hood blocks the driver’s view directly in front of the cab. To stay out of that blind spot, move over only when you can see the entire cab in your rear view mirror. Once you move over, don’t slow down. A truck can’t stop fast so it could run over you.
Never, ever, pass on the right side of the truck if you can avoid it. It’s called the “suicide,” for a reason. The truck could veer to the right suddenly to avoid debris. That would trap you on its right side and push your car off the road or crush it in the process. The trucker won’t see you there until it is too late, if he ever sees you at all.
Never pass a truck on a bridge or a road without a shoulder. If the truck starts to move into your lane as you pass, hit your horn and stay on it to signal the driver you are there. If it keeps coming, drive onto the shoulder or onto the median to get out of its way.
Remember a truck has four blind spots. Stay out of them. That way, your meeting with one of these modern day metal monsters won’t be your last!
Wayne Wright is a winner of the 2014 Litigator Award for his success representing clients injured in trucking and automobile accidents. Less than one percent of law firms in the U.S. are eligible for the award.