Driving Defensively Around Large Vehicles
Most people have heard of defensive driving, a style driving used to drive safely and predict the actions of other drivers around you in order to prevent an accident from occurring. Defensive driving is incredibly important, and this is especially true when you are driving around larger vehicles such as tractor-trailers, dump trucks, construction vehicles, buses, and more.
Prevalence of Truck and Bus Accidents
According to data available from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), we know that there were approximately 148,000 people injured due to large truck crashes during the latest reporting the air across the country. These incidents also led to 4,761 total fatalities. Large commercial vehicles operate regularly across the state of West Virginia, which means that residents and visitors to this state could certainly benefit from defensive driving tactics around these vehicles.
Staying Out of Blind Spots
Large trucks, buses, and other large vehicles have significant blind spots on all four sides of their vehicle. Large truck drivers will not be able to see a vehicle in their blind spots, and this could lead to serious accidents when the truck is changing lanes, makes a turn, speeds up, or slows down. The four areas where trucks and other large vehicles have blind spots are referred to as “No Zones,” and include the following areas:
- Directly in front of the truck
- Directly behind the truck
- Along each side of a truck (though the blind spot on the right side is larger)
It is important for drivers to be aware of these blind spots and avoid operating their vehicles in them. A general rule of thumb is that if you cannot see the truck driver in their mirrors, then the truck driver will not be able to see you.
How to Safely Pass a Large Vehicle
It may be necessary for you to pass a large truck on the highway or on local roadways. There are several steps you can take to safely pass a truck or other large vehicle:
- Remember to stay out of the large vehicle’s blind spots. When passing a vehicle, you will temporarily be in their blind spot, but do not linger there for any length of time.
- Signal your intention to change lanes, and then move into a clear lane and accelerate. If possible, you should only pass a truck by moving into a left-hand lane.
- Accelerate so that you can pass the truck or large vehicle safely and promptly. You need to time your passing of the vehicle properly and try not to pass a large truck when there is another vehicle ahead of you or blocking your ability to completely pass.
- After you have passed a vehicle, allow for plenty of space between you and the large vehicle before returning to that lane. Do not immediately change into a lane right in front of a large truck, bus, or other vehicle, as this will put you in one of their blind spots.
Leave Extra Space, Especially on Mountain Roads
It is always good practice to leave plenty of space in between your vehicle and larger vehicles on the roadway. This is one of the most important aspects of defensive driving. When operating around large vehicles, leaving more distance than normal between your vehicle and the large vehicle can give you enough time to react to any adverse conditions or sudden movements of a large vehicle. One issue that some residents and visitors to West Virginia will have to contend with is mountain roads. If you are on operating on a mountain road, the more distance you put between your vehicle and larger vehicles, the better.