By Russ and Tiña De Maris
While the number of “big truck” accidents on America’s roads seems to be trending down, don’t let that cause you to go easy on safety around big trucks. Here’s a statistic that could take the sweetness out of your Frosted Flakes: Each year in accidents involving big trucks and passenger vehicles, about 700 big rig occupants die. At the same time, around 5,000 passenger vehicle occupants wind up as fatalities. Get in a wreck with a big rig, your chances aren’t real swell.
So what’s to be done? Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when sharing the roadway with truckers.
Keep your distance — not just behind a truck but anywhere in the vicinity. As you whip on down the freeway, you’ll find yourself dodging ‘gators. You know, those big chunks of rubber frequently tossed off truck tires. Get hit with a flying ‘gator and you can watch your windshield blast into a beautiful crinkle pattern. Worse, a blown tire can cause a trucker to lose control.
But control issues aren’t limited to tires – the wind can really raise control havoc with a trucker. That big old cargo trailer running behind a semi-tractor presents an irresistible target for wind gusts. A blast of wind can cause that trailer to drift right over into your lane – or worse, even blow the rig over. If you’re right next to it when that happens, you can be like the proverbial squished bug. So when passing a truck driver, don’t mess around – get on it, pass the truck, and then give PLENTY of distance before you pull back in. And DON’T pass on the right or “sui-side” of the truck – while there’s plenty of “blind spots” on a big rig’s left side, they’re far worse on the right side.
Here’s a good refresher on truck passing:
Don’t get too close to the rear before you begin you pass – you can push right into the rear blind spot of the rig. Be sure to signal your intent – and it’s not a bad idea to flip on your headlights in daylight hours while making the pass. When you’re sure you have PLENTY of distance clear ahead (if on a non-divided roadway) pull into the passing lane, and accelerate steadily and quickly. When is it safe to pull back in? Many authorities say don’t pull back in until you can see the entire front of the truck in your rear view mirror. Then, for heaven’s sake, don’t slow down! Not only is it unsafe, it’s darned irritating.
And look out for turns. As RVers, we should already have a handle on this one, particularly if we pull a long trailer. You know the drill – when you pull up to make a turn, you’ll probably have to pull a little to the left to make a right turn – it’s just required by that long trailer. Well, add a bit more for the truck driver – he may need to practically pull into the oncoming lane to safely make his turn. Ah, that leaves that delectable space between the trucker’s right side and the curb. Zip into that space and prepare to be compressed! By the time the trucker spots you in that “NO! zone,” it’ll likely be too late.
Big takeaway principles? Leave lots of room. Don’t dally when you pass. Don’t pull back in too soon. Imagine that you won’t be seen anywhere near a truck, unless it’s way out front.