Sharing the road with large trucks: 3 safety tips for Texas motorists

To reduce their risk of truck crashes, drivers should understand how trucks vary from other vehicles, avoid blind spots and give truckers extra space.

In 2015, large trucks and other commercial vehicles were involved in 34,230 crashes throughout Texas, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. These common accidents can have deadly consequences for other motorists; in 2015 alone, they caused 6,162 injuries and 601 fatalities. Given these alarming statistics, it is critical for drivers in Bellaire to understand how to lower their risk of being involved in large truck crashes.

1. Understand vehicular dynamics

Large trucks vary significantly from other vehicles in their handling and safety risks. Motorists should be aware of the following facts:

  • A typical large truck weighs 20 to 30 times what a passenger vehicle does. This puts the occupants of passenger cars at high risk for injury or death during truck crashes.
  • As a result of their excessive weight and unusual brake design, large trucks require significantly more space to stop than other vehicles do.
  • Trucks have much higher clearance than other vehicles. This can enhance their risk of rollovers and allow deadly under-ride crashes, which happen when passenger vehicles slide beneath a trailer.

Due to these vehicular characteristics, it is critical for passenger car drivers to use extra caution when driving near large trucks.

2. Leave extra space

Drivers should always allow extra space when passing and following large trucks. To give trucks enough stopping distance to avoid rear-end crashes, drivers should not change lanes in front of one unless the entire vehicle can be seen in the rearview mirror. Drivers should also avoid following trucks too closely. Tailgating can obstruct a driver's view of road hazards or changing traffic conditions. Additionally, it can raise the risk of rear-end crashes and under-ride collisions.

Off the highway, drivers should also allows large trucks extra space. In town, truckers may make unexpected maneuvers, such as stopping at railroad tracks or backing to reach a loading dock. In addition, to execute turns, trucks often have to swing wide in the opposite direction. Drivers should avoid trying to pass trucks during these maneuvers, as they may misinterpret a trucker's intentions and experience an unnecessary accident.

3. Know the blind spots

Drivers should also be familiar with the areas where large trucks have blind spots. Unlike most vehicles, trucks have a front blind spot that extends forward several car lengths, along with a large rear blind spot. The driver's side blind spot reaches from the driver's seat to the trailer, while the passenger side blind spot stretches back the entire length of the trailer and across several lanes. To avoid these spots, drivers should never pass trucks on the right-hand side, and they should avoid lingering when passing on the left-hand side.

Seek advice after accidents

Sadly, these best practices will not prevent every accident. Even the most vigilant drivers may not be able to avoid accidents that occur when truckers violate safety regulations or engage in other reckless behaviors. Fortunately, legal remedies may be available to victims of these needless accidents. A truck crash attorney may be able to offer further advice on a person's rights and the claim process.