Staying Safe Around Big Rigs

Truck drivers do not lead easy lives. They work long, often monotonous hours, trying to steer large, heavy vehicles safely on congested streets and highways. Unfortunately, those long hours and cumbersome trucks too often combine to create some of the worst accidents on America's roads.

Quick Facts

The laws of physics are not in favor of someone in a passenger vehicle that collides with a large truck. A fully loaded 18-wheeler can weigh 80,000 pounds more than 15 times the weight of a typical car. At 55 mph, a large truck takes two football fields to come to a stop, about 40 percent longer than the average car.
The Odds Are With the Truckers

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study of fatal traffic accidents involving large trucks and passenger vehicles shows that of those who died, three out of four were occupants in cars. Three out of four who suffered non-fatal injuries were also not in the trucks.

Leading Causes of Big Rig Accidents

The NHTSA has also studied the causes of accidents in which truck drivers were at fault.

* 38 percent were due to poor decisions (the driver was driving too fast for conditions, misjudging the speed of other vehicles, following other vehicles too closely, etc.)

* 28 percent were due to problems with recognition (the driver was inattentive, distracted or failed to observe the situation adequately for another reason)

* 12 percent of crashes involved non-performance (the driver fell asleep, suffered a heart attack or seizure or was physically impaired for another reason)

* 9 percent involved performance issues (the driver panicked, overcompensated, exercised poor control of the vehicle, etc.)

Safe Driving Tips

It is important to follow a few basic rules when you're driving near large trucks, especially at high speeds on interstate highways.

Stay out of blind spots: Even though all large trucks have side mirrors, they also have blind spots. A good rule to follow is that if you can not see the driver in the side mirror, the driver can not see you either.

* Do not tailgate: Stay at least 20 car lengths behind a large truck. The extra distance allows you to see in front of the truck, enabling you to stop suddenly or swerve out of danger if traffic conditions ahead warranty it.

* Pass with caution: After passing a big rig, do not pull back into its lane of traffic until you can see its headlights in your rear-view mirror. This gives the truck driver the room he or she needs to be able to slow down or stop if need be.

* Maintain a safe distance: Remember that trucks need much more room to stop than you do. Make sure to maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and a following truck. If the truck driver ignores that margin of safety and follows too closely, move your vehicle into another lane of traffic.

* Do not drive continuously along a large truck.

Although safety is not guaranteed, the steps you take to protect yourself from being in a truck accident may save your life.

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