Reducing Car-Truck Crashes – 5 Ways Motorists Can Do Their Part

Following the recent truck-related crash involving Tracy Morgan, professional truck drivers have been under a microscope. And, despite the fact that the vast majority of truckers are safety-first professionals, the media has painted the entire trucking industry as a wild band of lawless cowboys.

So, what’s really going on out there? And, how can we make our highways and byways safer for everyone?

Let’s take a look.

Who’s responsible for car-truck crashes?

The New York Times shared that, “…more than 30,000 people die on highways annually in the United States; crashes involving large trucks are responsible for one in seven of those deaths.”

Of course, we know that statistic doesn’t tell the whole story—because it doesn’t address fault.

So, let’s dig deeper.

In a February 2013 study by the University of Michigan Transport Research Institute, car drivers were found to be solely or jointly responsible for 81% of the 8,309 fatal car-truck crashes examined.

(Meanwhile, truck drivers were solely or jointly responsible 27% of the time.)

Now, whether those crashes were related to aggressive or inattentive driving, or the motoring public’s knowledge gap regarding how to share the road safely with truck drivers, the end result was the same: Someone didn’t make it home.

So, let’s take a look at the ways motorists can share the road with truck drivers safely and ensure everyone gets to their destination in one piece.

1. Never, ever, e-v-e-r cut in front of a truck.

While you might be able to come to a rapid, screeching halt in your Honda Civic, big rigs simply can’t stop on a dime. In fact, when traveling at a speed of 55 MPH, it will take a fully-loaded tractor-trailer the length of an entire football field to come to a complete stop.

Now consider this: The average truck weighs 80,000 pounds when loaded; your vehicle weighs about 3,000.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of book smarts to figure out the physics in this situation.

What should you do?

Simple: Give truckers—and yourself—plenty of room to operate safely.

That means changing lanes only when you can see both of the truck’s headlights in your rearview mirror.

2. Don’t tailgate a big rig.

Tucked in tight behind a trailer is a really dangerous place to be.

Why, exactly?

When the truck driver you’re following is forced to hit the brakes for any number of reasons—debris in the road or a motorist coming to a rapid stop ahead, for example—you won’t be able to see the situation unravelling, because you’re following too closely.

So, not only do you not have space to stop in time, you’ve also reduced your reaction time—and your vehicle could slide beneath the trailer, shearing off the top of your vehicle.

As you can imagine, these are devastating accidents that don’t end well for the car driver.

What should you do?

When you’re following a truck, give yourself a safety cushion of 20 – 25 car lengths.

Now, that may sound like you’re being asked to give a county’s worth of buffer room, but it’s what’s necessary to allow yourself the reaction time you need to navigate the rapidly unfolding situation safely.

Tip: If you can see the truck’s left and right side view mirrors, you’re in good shape.

3. Avoid the “No Zone.”

What you may not realize is that trucks and trailers create immense blind spots—and you don’t want to be in one of them when the driver of an 80,000 pound vehicle needs to make a lane change.

What should you do?

Check the truck’s side view mirrors. Can see the driver’s face? If not, the driver can’t see you—and that means you’re traveling in a blind spot.

For everyone’s safety, don’t linger in those blind spots and, if you can, pass on the truck’s left hand side where the blind spot is smaller.

4. Leave that rush hour buffer alone.

You may have noticed that truck drivers tend to allow plenty of room between themselves and the vehicle ahead when traffic is snarled.

Know this: That trucker isn’t “doing you a solid.”

While they may be the embodiment of kindness, that slot just isn’t for you. Truckers give themselves lots of space, allowing them to react to traffic situations ahead safely.

What should you do?

Never cut into a truck driver’s safety zone in congested traffic. Heck, just don’t cut into the truck driver’s safety zone ever. Really, it’s that simple.

5. Just drive.

When you’re behind the wheel, it’s your job to ensure your safety and the safety of everyone around you.

Your moving vehicle is not a dining table, office, or powder room.

However, when you’re not paying attention, your moving vehicle can become a dangerous weapon.

What should you do?

Easy—give the road your complete and undivided attention.

Your calls and texts can wait. And, we promise, that cold burger will be a pretty easy pill to swallow when it means you arrive alive.

C’mon, America. Let’s be safe out there.

Truckers—Do you have any safety tips to share? We’d love to hear ’em.