Preventing a truck accident is always better than dealing with the aftermath of one. In 2016, 29 Floridians died in heavy truck accidents. Most, if not all, truck accidents in Florida are preventable.
They arise out of negligence – often on the part of the trucker, the trucking company, a roadway maintenance crew, or a part manufacturer. As a driver, you can’t always avoid driving next to big rigs. You may, however, be able to avoid truck accidents with a few best practices behind the wheel. Next time you hit the highway, keep these accident prevention tips in mind.
Leave Plenty of Room
Large trucks cannot brake or maneuver as quickly as smaller passenger vehicles, since an 18-wheeler averages around 16 times the weight of a passenger car. Large trucks use completely different braking systems than passenger vehicles – compressed air instead of hydraulic braking.
Air brakes are reliable, but there is a delay between when the driver presses the pedal and when the truck begins to stop. This lag time can be deadly if there are vehicles driving too close to the truck, or if another driver abruptly cuts off a large truck. Always leave ample room in front, behind, and to the sides of your car when driving next to big rigs.
Don’t Drive in the “No-Zone”
Truck drivers must deal with enormous blind spots when operating tractor-trailers. The length of the trailer makes it impossible to see certain areas of the roadway surrounding the vehicle. These areas are “no-zones,” meaning zones other drivers should never stay within.
Bigger blind spots means a higher risk of collisions while the truck tries to switch lanes or merge. Lower the odds of getting into an accident by staying out of the truck driver’s no-zone. A good rule of thumb – if you can’t see the driver in his or her side mirrors, the driver can’t see you. Quickly pass through the no-zone, never staying there longer than is necessary.
Pass on the Outer Edge of the Road
The immense size of large trucks creates wind and air pressure to its sides that can affect smaller passenger vehicles. You might have noticed this in the past, when passing big rigs.
To avoid the air pressure moving your car and causing an accident, pass trucks as far to the left-hand side of the road as possible.
Keep a steady speed and quickly maneuver out of the trucker’s blind spots. Be extra careful when you pass, never cutting in front of a truck and then hitting your brakes. Give trucks more space when passing than you would normally give other vehicles.
Move Over for Stopped Truckers
Truck drivers must stop on the sides of the road when they experience tire blowouts, load shifts, breakdowns, or other problems. The driver should set up orange traffic cones, triangles, or flares in these cases.
If you see a truck stopped on the side of the road, move over at least one lane if possible to keep the vulnerable driver safe. If you cannot switch lanes, reduce your speed and drive carefully near the truck, always watching for the driver, who could be outside of the vehicle.
Anticipate Wide Turns
On Florida’s smaller roadways, look out for the extra-wide turns tractor-trailers have to take. The truck may swing left to make a right turn, and vice versa.
Leave trucks plenty of space to make wide turns, to avoid getting trapped between the truck and the curb, or striking the truck as it swings outward.
Anticipate turns at intersections, and slow your speed if you see a truck with its blinker on. The truck will likely need to take up multiple lanes to execute the turn. Never pass a truck on the same side it’s turning, and avoid following too closely.
Truck accidents happen when other drivers drive erratically, speed, weave through traffic, fail to use turn signals, and otherwise practice unsafe and unpredictable driving habits.
The best thing you can do for yourself around big trucks is to stay predictable.
Obey traffic rules and speed limits, turn your blinkers on far in advance of a turn, brake slowly and evenly, and help the truck driver out as much as you can. It may be tempting to cut a trucker off or try to speed up to pass, but these actions can snowball into a wreck.
The more predictable you are to truckers around you, the less likely you are to become an accident victim having to pursue legal actions.
Always Pay Attention to the Road
Driver distraction and inattention are killers on Florida’s roadways.
Driving distracted, under the influence, or drowsy are especially dangerous when you’re around big rigs. Always pay close attention to the road. Keep your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road, and your mind on the driving task.
Picking up your phone to read or send a text message for just five seconds is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. Put your phone away when driving, and eliminate other distractions to avoid truck accidents.
In many cases, you can avoid Florida trucking accidents. Stay alert and practice defensive driving to keep yourself and your passengers safe around large trucks. Use these tips to help you arrive safe and sound.
To learn more about truck accidents, read our A Comprehensive Guide for Truck Accident Victims.