Mary Lou Jay
When a car and a large truck crash, there's little question about which vehicle is more likely to come out on top. In 2009 (the latest year for which data are available), 3,380 people were killed in collisions that involved large trucks -- and three-fourths of them were occupants of the non-truck vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of the 74,000 people injured in vehicle collisions with trucks that same year, three-fourths of them were the occupants of the other vehicles.
Having a lightweight vehicle is advantageous when it comes to fuel efficiency. Yet when it comes to safety, larger vehicles are often safer. That's why it's important that all drivers learn how to share the road safely with big rigs.
One of the most important things to remember when you're driving around trucks is that trucks don't handle the same way as cars. According to the Michigan Center for Truck Safety, trucks generally:
- Take longer to stop. A large, empty truck may require the length of a football field to come to a complete stop when it's traveling at 55 miles per hour. So if you cut in front of a truck and then have to hit the brakes, the truck may not be able to avoid slamming into you.
- Have large blind spots. Drivers of passenger vehicles and SUVs are accustomed to having fairly good visibility around all sides. That's not the case for truck drivers, who have large blind spots on both sides of their vehicles. It's also difficult for them to spot smaller vehicles that are traveling too close in front or too close behind. To ensure that the truck driver knows where your vehicle is, make sure you can see the truck's mirrors. If you're trying to pass a truck, don't pull back in front of it until you can see its headlights and front tires in your rear-view mirror.
- Need more room to make right turns. On a road with two lanes going in one direction, trucks actually may have to turn right from the left lane to make it safely through the intersection. Drivers who aren't paying attention to a truck's turn signals and try to sneak by it in the right lane could end up getting squeezed between the truck and the curb. So if you see a truck signaling a right, it's a good idea to stay behind it until it has completed the turn.