The legal weight of an 18 wheeler – without any oversize or overweight permits – is 80,000 pounds. In contrast, the average light duty automobile in 2012 weighed 3,977 pounds, as reported by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Needless to say, in accidents involving commercial trucks and passenger vehicles, the occupants of the passenger vehicles can suffer very serious personal injuries. To avoid such a devastating accident, it makes good sense to learn how to safely share the road with large commercial trucks.
Capabilities and Maneuverability of Big Trucks
The California Department of Motor Vehicles has made information about the physical capabilities of big trucks available to the general public in an effort to reduce the number of accidents. It is important for motorists to be aware of the following:
- Longer stopping distance. Because of their weight and size, large commercial trucks take longer to stop than passenger vehicles. While the average passenger vehicle can stop in about 400 feet after traveling at 55 mph, it will take the average large truck traveling at the same speed approximately twice that distance to stop. It is not advisable to slow down or stop in front of a large commercial truck. The driver may not be able to stop in time to avoid a collision with your vehicle.
- Blind spots. Drivers of large trucks have “blind spots,” and it is important to avoid them. Blind spots occur because the trailer part of the truck blocks what the driver can see in his or her mirrors. The DMV has provided a diagram of these locations on their website. The rule of thumb is that if you cannot see the truck driver in the truck’s side mirror, the truck driver cannot see you.
- Larger turning radius. Be alert for the wide swing of large trucks that are turning right or left, and stay out of the path of the swing of the rear end of the truck.
- Less maneuverability. Bear in mind that large trucks do not have the maneuverability of smaller vehicles. The average 18 wheeler can be 70 to 80 feet long. They weigh more, require more room for turns, and take longer to stop and start. According to the California DMV, these trucks must be driven in the far right lane of the highway, unless posted otherwise, or in the lane just to the left of the far right lane when there are four or more traffic lanes in one direction.
While safe driving is important under any circumstances, motorists are wise to take extra caution with large commercial trucks because of the potential for serious injury in a car accident with such a large and heavy vehicle.
Avoid these mistakes:
- Do not underestimate the speed of an approaching truck. Due to their massive size, large trucks may appear to be traveling slower than they actually are.
- Do not cut off a truck in traffic or on the highway. Slow down and let the truck go in front of you instead.
- Never tailgate a large truck. The driver cannot see you, which puts you at risk.
- Do not linger alongside a large truck. Pass on the left and get ahead of the truck as soon as possible. These simple safety measures taken by motorists can help save lives by preventing accidents with commercial trucks.
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