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Summer vacation driving plans? Play it safe near large trucks

Summer vacation driving plans? Play it safe near large trucks

Summer is in full swing, and families across the nation have been hitting the road for vacations. Whether driving cross-country, or taking shorter weekend jaunts, American families will be logging the miles this July and August as they do every year.

Vintage post card with red station wagon

But America’s families won’t be the only ones hitting the road this busy travel season; our nation's hardworking commercial truck drivers will be logging the miles, too!  Only, they're doing it to deliver the goods that fuel our economy, stock the shelves at our local stores, and fill our pantries. The trucking industry impacts our daily lives in more ways than we can imagine.

Truck drivers are operating much larger, heavier vehicles than many of our own and have a very different degree of responsiveness.

Photo of trucks on a California highway

In 2012, nearly 4,000 people died in crashes involving a large truck.  Whether you’re driving a small car or a large truck, we all have a role to play in increasing highway safety and helping bring that number down.

So, to make your summer vacation driving as safe and enjoyable as possible, we at DOT recommend these three simple road-sharing steps from Road Safe America to help protect your family and those around you.  These simple steps are easy and can save lives.

  • Never, EVER, cut in front of a truck.
    You might be able to come to a screeching halt in your car but big rigs simply cannot stop on a dime. In fact, when traveling at a speed of 55 mph, it takes a fully-loaded tractor-trailer the length of a football field to come to a complete stop.
  • Don’t tailgate a big rig.
    Tucked in tight behind a trailer is a really dangerous place to be. Why, exactly? Because when the truck driver you are following hits the brakes for any number of reasons - debris in the road or a motorist cutting in front of the truck, for example - you won't be able to see the situation unraveling because you are following too closely and you may not have time to react.
  • Avoid the “No Zone”
    Tractor-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 you see the driver's face? If not, the driver cannot see you, and that means you are traveling in a blind spot and should get out of it as soon as possible.

This summer, as we make our way around the country on family road trips, let's do our best to make sure that the vacation memories we create are happy ones.

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      As a former truck driver I agree with this 100%. While I cannot blame car drivers entirely, I know they have no knowledge of what it takes to drive a big rig. I also know there are many bad apples out there that make responsible truckers look bad. This is where defensive driving comes into play and where you the car driver can protect yourself from those "bad apple" truckers. Just as a car driver if you see a truck bouncing off the lane lines, it probably means he is distracted and you should pass the truck in a timely manner. One of my biggest pet peeves while driving a truck is when a car would "hover" next to me when no one was in front/behind them. This causes the truck driver to take his eyes off the road in front of them and focus attention on you. A truck is darn near the width of the lane so we have little room before we get into another lane. Moral of this story is, if you are going to pass a truck do it as quickly as possible. This other situation might come off as a little arrogant, but when dealing with people all day like the ones from the previous situation you might understand why this situation exists. Most truckers I know will use a turn signal to signal lanes changes. Most will turn it on with plenty of time to spare and use it to warn other drivers, "Hey watch it! I need to move over." If you see a trucker with his signal on and you are "hovering" either speed up or slow down and get around the truck. If you hover too long, expect the trucker to make the decision for you by slowly moving into your lane forcing you to speed up or slow down. Arrogant? Yes. But that street goes both ways Car<>Truck. Be mindful of trucks this summer. We are big, we are slow, and we don't stop quick. There is no point in speeding around a truck only to cut it off to get in the exit lane when you could have just sat behind the truck for 5 more seconds. Stay calm, and arrive safe.