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Staying safe when sharing the road with trucks

You are traveling along an Illinois highway when you come upon a tractor-trailer or other large, commercial vehicle. What do you do? Is it safer to shift lanes and try to pass the truck as quickly as possible? This means having the truck barreling along behind you. Should you stay where you are behind the truck? This means being unable to see what is happening ahead of you.

Driving among big rigs is intimidating and sometimes terrifying. It is not always easy to trust that the driver sees you and is capable of avoiding you. There are some actions you can take to improve your chances of arriving home safely when you share the highway with commercial vehicles.

Avoid the driver's blind spots

Large vehicles, especially tractor-trailers, have many blind spots. If you travel in these areas, the driver is not able to see you. Blind spots for a tractor-trailer driver include the following areas:

  • Directly behind the truck for about 30 feet
  • One lane to the left just behind the driver's door to about halfway back the trailer
  • Two lanes to the right from the front of the cab to several feet past the end of the trailer
  • Within 20 feet of the front of the cab

As you can see, most of the areas around the truck are blind spots, and driving in these areas puts you in danger if the truck changes lanes, backs up or accelerates without warning. A rule of thumb is to look for the driver's face in his or her side mirrors. If you cannot see the driver in the mirrors, the driver cannot see you.

Getting around a commercial vehicle

Passing a truck may be your first instinct. Trucks are difficult to see around, and they will certainly slow you down, especially if you are traveling in mountainous areas. If you intend to pass, keep these factors in mind:

  • Avoid too much time in blind spots on the side of the truck
  • Avoid passing when going downhill
  • Use your signals to change lanes
  • Pass from the left lane only
  • Leave sufficient distance when you move back into the lane in front of the truck

When a truck is passing you, it helps to slow down a bit and allow the driver plenty of room. This prevents you from being in a blind spot when the driver merges into your lane.

Some precautions are wise even when no trucks are around, such as driving sober, avoiding distractions and not driving when you are drowsy. Nevertheless, there is never a guarantee that your proactive measures will protect you in every situation. In case of an accident, seeking assistance for your medical and legal needs is critical.

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