Avoiding Truck Accidents

Hi Topspeed,
What is the safest way to pass a truck on the highway?

Deborah C. from Kansas City, Missouri

Hello Deborah,

The safest way to pass any truck is on a straight patch of road and as quickly as possible. Bumps in the road, heavy winds, shifting cargo and other factors can all cause a truck to move into your lane unexpectedly. This can cause an accident that is not necessarily the truck driver's fault.

Truck drivers are specially trained to handle the large vehicles they drive and do their best to avoid accidents with regular vehicles. When a truck is in an accident with another vehicle though, it is usually the other driver's fault. Many of these accidents occur because drivers don't know how to properly share the road with a truck.

To that end, here are some tips to remember when dealing with truck traffic:

1. Never drive in front of a truck and slow down or apply the brakes abruptly. Trucks require a lot more stopping distance than cars and cannot make evasive lane changes as quickly either. When you apply your brakes, make sure there isn't a truck close behind you, as most truck drivers will choose to rear-end you rather than cause a worse accident by swerving into another lane.

2. Never pass a truck on the right hand side. It is illegal to do so in most places and for a good reason. The right sides of most trucks have a large blind spot that can easily obscure a full-sized car. Should a truck driver make a right hand turn or lane change, it won't be until your car is getting crushed that the driver will realize you are there. This sort of accident is easily preventable by only passing trucks on the left.

3. Always give a truck sufficient time and space to execute a turn. The larger the truck, the more time and space it needs to complete a turn. Most trucks make wide turns and trying to make the same turn before them can easily cause an accident.

4. Always make it as easy as possible for a truck to pass you. This means moving over into another lane if a truck is coming up behind you. It is easier and safer for a car to make a lane change than a truck. If you can't or don't wish to match the truck's speed, get out of its way!

Also, when a truck wishes to change into your lane, slow down slightly and flash your high-beams twice to let the truck driver know it is okay to make the lane change. This gesture is truly appreciated by professional truck drivers. They will almost always do the same for you.

5. Do not tailgate a truck! Drivers of regular cars that rear-end a large truck can easily die if their car goes under the truck's strong bumper. This type of accident is easily avoided by not tailgating.

6. Always remember to maintain your car's visibility when near a truck. Your car should always be visible in the mirrors of the truck or the risk of an accident increases dramatically. If you are not in the scope of the truck's mirrors, then the driver cannot see you.

7. Use your common sense. The larger vehicle always has the right of way! Do not try to battle a truck for position on any road or street. You and your car will always lose. Furthermore, no one likes it when another vehicle tries to bully its way past.

8. When stopped in traffic, always maintain a distance of a few feet from the rear bumper of a truck. Most trucks have manual shift transmissions and oftentimes roll backward slightly when their brakes are released to begin accelerating. A truck may roll back significantly when starting up a hill and if the front of your car is hit by a backwards-rolling truck, you only have yourself to blame.

9. Never park directly behind a truck. Most truck drivers usually check behind their trucks before backing up but some don't. If you do not leave a truck enough room to back up and exit its parking space, well, don't be surprised if the front of your car is damaged upon your return.

By keeping these simple driving tips in mind, not only will you reduce your risk of being involved in an accident with a truck but you'll also create a safer and more courteous driving environment for all road users.

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