Sharing the Road: What Young Drivers Should Know About Big Trucks
by Mark Kinsel
With winter just around the corner, many young drivers will experience cold weather road conditions for the first time; add large trucks to the mix, and odds are you’ll see a great increase in accidents that occur. Even if a truck driver receives the best CDL training possible, they are still relying on all of the young drivers around them to be aware of big trucks. As a former truck driver, I know that 9 in 10 fatal truck crashes happen when smaller passenger vehicles are involved. If you’re new to driving, or just need a refresher course, here are the 4 B’s that drivers of all ages can keep in mind when sharing the road with large trucks.
Avoid Blind Spots
All young drivers know that cars have blind spots. For big trucks, especially those hauling trailers, these blinds spots are exponentially larger. This area is called the No-Zone. If you remember nothing else about blind spots then remember this: If you can’t see the truck driver, then the truck driver can’t see you!
• There are blinds spots on the left and the right of a truck’s cab. If you can’t see the trucker in the side mirror, then you’re in the blind spot, and you need to get out.
• Behind the truck is the largest No-Zone. The trucker cannot see you and you cannot see what is ahead of the truck, thus greatly reducing your reaction time.
• In front of a large truck is a dangerous place to be as well. Unlike small cars, trucks need considerably more time and distance to come to a stop.
When driving a massive vehicle, operators need more time and space to react to anything happening out on the road. Others can make the roads safer by making sure their moves are steady and predictable. This is especially true when drivers need to pass through a blind spot.
• Always maintain a constant speed while driving around large trucks. When you enter a blind spot, maintain your speed and be visible and predictable.
• Change directions slowly and deliberately. Do not weave in and out of lanes. Driving a truck requires enough focus without having to keep track of erratic drivers.
• Signal plenty of time before making moves in traffic. This gives everyone else time to react to your change in lane or direction.
Being alert while you’re behind the wheel is an absolute must. Fatal traffic accidents claim countless lives every year, and if you’re frequently inattentive when you drive, you’re only contributing to the problem. Rather than concerning yourself with your phone or your stereo, try focusing on what’s happening in front of you; it can save lives.
• Don’t text (or talk) and drive. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 21 percent of fatal car crashes, involving drivers ages 15-19, were due to cell phone distractions.
• Don’t be a Rubbernecker! This occurs when something of interest catches your eye and you whip your head around to see more. This causes immediate loss of focus on the road. Also, when you turn your head, your hands instinctively turn in that direction which could cause you to drift out of your lane.
• Keep in mind that there are many other ways to be distracted by influences in and out of the car, especially if you are getting up early in the morning to drive to school.
This one may seem obvious, but often forgotten when tempers flare on the roads. Just remember that everyone needs to get somewhere; that’s why you’re all driving in the first place. Big trucks are not on the road solely to make your life more difficult.
Driving on our roadways requires a lot of trust, and the only way we can establish that with each other is by working together and being respectful of one another’s boundaries. Reading this article means that you have taken a great first step in ensuring your own, and everyone else’s safety.
Just remember: Keep your mind in the car, while keeping your eyes and tires on the road!