Every year, thousands of deadly accidents involve semi-trucks around America. Large trucks played a role in almost 4,700 fatal traffic accidents in 2017, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) data. Commercial big rigs can pose significant risks to other road users. Their size and weight can cause catastrophic damages to smaller vehicles in collisions, not to mention common incidents such as tire blowouts and lost cargo loads. You may not be able to avoid driving around semi-trucks in Texas, but you can decrease your risk of an accident with a few simple tips.
Keep Your Distance
Avoid driving next to big rigs for extended periods on Texas highways. Semi-trucks have long trailers and significant blind spots that can be extremely dangerous for other drivers. The FMCSA calls these spots “No Zones,” with warnings to other drivers to give big rigs extra space. A truck driver’s blind spots extend 20 feet in front of the truck, 30 feet to the rear, 1 lane to the left and 2 lanes to the right.
If you cannot see the truck driver in his or her rearview mirrors, the truck driver cannot see you. Do not hover in the No Zone or you risk a truck driver merging on top of you. Try to pass large trucks as quickly as possible, using extra care to drive far enough in front of them to merge back into the lane safely. Avoid the No Zone when a truck is changing lanes.
Do Not Pass to the Right
Reserve the right lane for traveling slowly and exiting the interstate, not trying to quickly pass a big rig. Passing a semi-truck on its right side could expose you to a high risk of blind spot accidents. Truck drivers often cannot see vehicles on their right sides at all. Truckers may try to merge right into the slow lane on top of smaller vehicles or turn right on top of cars they cannot see. Only pass to the left, where the driver can see your vehicle better and is expecting faster cars.
Never Tailgate a Semi-Truck
Underride accidents are such a significant risk to motor vehicle drivers that the federal government passed rear impact guard requirements to help prevent them. An underride accident is a large truck rear-end collision in which the smaller vehicle slides beneath the tractor-trailer, often fatally injuring vehicle passengers.
The height of a trailer can be dangerous for shorter cars, but a rear impact guard can help prevent deadly underride collisions. The best way to protect yourself from this type of crash is to keep at least two car lengths of space between the front of your car and the back of the semi-truck. Staying away from the back of the truck can give you enough time to stop if the truck driver slams on the brakes.
Do Not Drive Distracted
Navigating safely around semi-trucks takes 100% of your attention as a driver. Driving with distractions such as cellphones, food or chatty passengers could jeopardize your ability to avoid an accident. Driver distraction is a common cause of collisions in the U.S. In 2017, this negligent driver behavior took at least 3,166 lives, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. You could greatly increase your risk of a semi-truck accident in Texas if you drive distracted. Put your phone away and keep your eyes on the road.
Allow Extra Time for Trucks to Brake
Semi-trucks can exceed 80,000 pounds. Commercial trucks use special air brakes to help them stop quickly, but they still require extra space and time to brake. Never cut a big rig off when driving in Texas. Instead, pass or merge lanes safely by leaving plenty of room between your car and the truck. Signal your intent to merge at least 100 feet in advance. Do not merge in a place where you will have to immediately hit the brakes, as this could put you at risk of the truck rear-ending you. Rear-end collisions and override accidents with large trucks can be deadly for passenger vehicle occupants.