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3 common mistakes motorists make when driving near heavy trucks

You may have felt intimidated to drive near heavy trucks, like tractor-trailers, when you were first learning to drive, but you probably share the road with these large vehicles so often now that you don’t worry much about it. However, even experienced drivers can make dangerous mistakes when driving near heavy trucks.

Crashes involving heavy trucks may not occur as often as collisions between two passenger vehicles, but when heavy trucks are involved in a collision, the results can be catastrophic, especially for the occupants of the smaller vehicle. By practicing safe driving habits and avoiding common mistakes, you can minimize your risk of being involved in this devastating type of collision.

Do you follow too closely behind trucks?

One common mistake motorists make is tailgating a truck. Large trucks have extensive blind spots on all four sides. The blind spot behind the trailer extends 30 feet. If you follow any closer behind a truck, the driver probably cannot see you, and if the driver slams on the brakes, your vehicle may end up sliding or being pushed underneath the trailer.

By following too closely, you also increase your risk of being hit by a poorly secured item that falls off the trailer or debris kicked up by the truck. You also reduce your time to avoid an obstruction that was able to pass under the truck but is too large to pass under your vehicle. There are many risks associated with tailgating a truck, but you can protect yourself from these risks by leaving plenty of space between your vehicle and a truck.

Do you merge to soon in front of trucks?

Large trucks also have a blind spot that extends 20 feet in front of them. Merging too soon in front of a truck is a common mistake many people make. If you cut in front of a truck, the driver may not be able to see you. Even if the driver does see you, he or she may not be able to stop in time to avoid a collision because heavy trucks need almost twice as much space as smaller vehicles need to come to a stop.

When you must merge in front of a heavy truck, try to allow extra space between your vehicle and the truck. Make sure you can see the entire front of the truck in your rear-view mirror before changing lanes.

Do you give trucks enough room to turn?

Because trucks are so long, drivers must swing wide to the left to safely complete some right turns. Unfortunately, many motorists do not realize this, so they try to squeeze between the turning truck and the curb. As the truck completes the turn, the smaller car could get crushed. It is especially difficult for truck drivers to see vehicles on the truck’s right side, so a truck driver may not even realize there is a car there until after the collision occurs.

You can prevent being in this type of collision by paying special attention to a truck’s turn signals as you approach an intersection. If you and the truck are both turning right, stay behind the truck until it has safely completed its turn.

Many drivers risk their safety by tailgating trucks, cutting in front of trucks or squeezing beside turning trucks. In general, if you maintain plenty of space between you and a heavy truck, you can minimize your risk of collision.

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