You have probably driven next to a tractor-trailer hundreds of times. The first couple times you drove next to a tractor-trailer may have been nerve-racking. You may have only had your learner’s permit at that time, but now you are a seasoned driver, and you may not give it a second thought when you encounter one of these large trucks on the road.
While there may not be a need for anxiety when sharing the road with tractor-trailers, there is a need for caution. Thousands of people are killed each year in collisions involving tractor-trailers, and most of those fatalities were the occupants of passenger vehicles.
Tractor-trailers cannot stop as quickly as cars can
Crashes between passenger vehicles and tractor-trailers can occur for a variety of reasons. One of the most common reasons is that the truck driver could not stop the tractor-trailer fast enough.
Loaded tractor-trailers need 20-40% farther to stop than cars. Even more space may be needed if weather, like rain or snow, is affecting the road conditions. Poorly maintained brakes can also impact a truck’s stopping capabilities. However, under the best conditions, a fully loaded tractor-trailer traveling at 65 miles per hour needs a distance equal to two football fields to come to a complete stop.
Some drivers may not understand the risks
Because tractor-trailers need so much space to stop, it is very important that motorists do not cut off these large vehicles. Many drivers (even good ones) do not realize how much space tractor-trailers need, so they merge in front of them without leaving enough space. By doing so, they can inadvertently put themselves in the blind spot that extends 20 feet in front of the tractor-trailer. Even if they are visible to the driver, they may still have put themselves in harm’s way.
If the motorist must slow or stop unexpectedly, the tractor-trailer may override their vehicle. This means that the smaller vehicle could end up underneath the tractor-trailer, which can be an especially dangerous type of collision.
Motorists and tractor-trailers can safely share the road
To avoid putting yourself and your passengers into a potentially dangerous situation, it is especially important to drive with caution whenever you are near a tractor-trailer. When merging or changing lanes in front of a tractor-trailer, be sure to give yourself plenty of room.
Generally, if you can see the entire front of the tractor-trailer in your rearview mirror, you have enough space to safely move in front of it. When doing so, be sure to signal your intention clearly, move over and maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the tractor-trailer.
If you are involved in a crash with a tractor-trailer, it is important to receive a medical examination as soon as possible. This type of crash can be very serious, and some injuries may not be immediately obvious.