By Billie and Robert Nicholson
Nothing spoils a road trip like winding up seriously injured or dead. There are plenty of simple, proactive, steps that we all can take to prevent accidents. We always prepare our automobile for road trips by checking our tires for proper tread and air pressure. This last trip we even purchased a new tire because the old one didn’t sound right. Top off fluids, including the window washer. Clean windows and mirrors. Take bottled water. And most importantly allow the proper time for travel. Don’t rush, and courteously share the road with other vehicles including cars, motorcycles and trucks, both small and large big rigs.
Big Rigs, also known as combination trucks, with five-axels, are about 74 feet long and can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Longer combination vehicles include “triples” that tow three 28-foot trailers for a total length of about 105 feet. They are currently allowed in 23 states. Some big rigs even have shifting, liquid loads or hazardous materials on board. We share the roads with these commercial rigs and they deserve our attention and respect if we want to avoid injury or death.
When passing a Big Rig do so quickly and do not linger alongside the rig. Make sure that you can see the truck’s mirrors. If you can see the mirrors, the Big Rig operator can see you.
Popular Mechanics published a great article by professional semi-truck driver, Mac Demere giving tips on avoiding accidents with semi-trailers. Here are some tips to help avoid accidents with semi-trucks.
A Semi-Truck’s Turn Signal Means “Make Room Now”
When you see a big truck’s signal, get out of the way. It usually means he needs to move quickly because the lane ahead is blocked or he sees a disabled vehicle on the roadside. Relinquish the left lane when you see the trucker’s signal and flash your headlights to assure him you are yielding the space.
Avoid Passing a Semi-Truck on the Right
If a trucker moves into the left lane, he has a good reason. Don’t scoot past him on the right. He may have pulled left to make a wide right turn. If you try to pass after the driver has started to turn, he will not see you. A trucker doesn’t have blind spots, he has blind fields. The driver has to monitor eight to ten mirrors, some vibrating vigorously or smeared with road slime. In bad weather, your headlights (you do have them on, right?) might not penetrate the road spray.
Honor the Gaps in Traffic
This extra space is not for you. It allows the truck to continue moving smoothly and avoid slamming on the brakes when the vehicle ahead slows or stops. A big truck requires roughly three times farther to stop than a car. Do not pull in front closely and then slow down. You may discover whether there is life after death. Give a trucker plenty of room and keep up your speed so he doesn’t have to slam on brakes.
Watch Out for Road Gators
When you are passing a semi-truck, don’t hang along side. Truck tires fail often. Those failures are referred to as blowouts for a reason. You’ve probably seen pieces of truck tires along the highway. “You do not want to be alongside a truck when a road gator is born — the flailing 70-plus-pound steel-reinforced tire will tear apart anything it touches.”
Nearly 37,000 people die in road crashes each year in the United States, on average more than 100 deaths a day. An additional 2.35 million are injured or disabled. More than half of all road traffic deaths occur among young adults ages 15-44.
Truckers report seeing lots of distracted automobile drivers, either texting, eating or generally not giving driving the FULL TIME AND ATTENTION that driving requires.
Enjoy traveling this summer and all year long. Road safety is a FULL TIME JOB. Please do it safely.