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Driving habits to keep you safe around tractor-trailers

Tractor-trailer crashes can cause devastating injuries to the occupants of passenger vehicles. To prevent crashes between tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has set safety regulations for truckers.

However, sometimes crashes can happen when drivers of passenger vehicles do not understand some of the operating limitations of commercial vehicles. To further avoid accidents between tractor-trailers and smaller vehicles, the FMCSA also recommends several safety practices for drivers of passenger vehicles.

Do not drive in the no zones

Tractor-trailers have large blind spots on all four sides. These blind spots are called “no zones” because other drivers should avoid driving in these areas.

No zones are located 20 feet in front of a tractor-trailer and 30 feet behind it. Another no zone is located on the driver’s side of a tractor-trailer, extending out one lane along the middle of the vehicle. On the passenger’s side, a no zone extends out two lanes along the length of the vehicle.

When driving near a tractor-trailer, you can avoid the no zones by slowing down or speeding up to stay in areas that are visible to the driver. If you cannot see the driver in his or her mirror, you should assume the driver cannot see you.

Pass safely

If you must pass a tractor-trailer, be sure to always pass on the driver’s side where the driver will be able to see you better. Be sure to use your turn signal appropriately and pass swiftly, avoiding lingering in any no zones. Then, allow plenty of space between you and the tractor-trailer before merging in front of it.

You never want to cut off a tractor-trailer because of the no zone that exists in front of it and the long distance required for it to stop. A fully loaded tractor-trailer traveling at 65 miles per hour needs the length of two football fields to stop when conditions are good. A declining slope or poor weather conditions could require an even longer stopping distance.

Never tailgate a tractor-trailer

Following too closely behind a tractor-trailer is also dangerous. In addition to putting you in a no zone, it puts you at risk for crashing into the back of the tractor-trailer. This type of crash is especially dangerous because passenger vehicles can slide under the trailer.

Never stop too closely behind a tractor-trailer either, especially when stopping on an inclining slope. This is because tractor-trailers can sometimes slide backward on inclines. When driving or stopping, it tends to be best to leave plenty of space between your vehicle and a tractor-trailer.

Expect wide turns

Tractor-trailers require extra room to turn. You can anticipate these wide turns by always stopping behind the stop line at intersections and never trying to squeeze between a turning truck and the curb. Trucks may swing wide when they turn or may start a turn from a middle lane, and vehicles that have overshot the stop line or are located between the tractor-trailer and the curb could be crashed into by the turning tractor-trailer.

While it is helpful to drive as safely as you can around tractor-trailers, sometimes a crash may happen anyway. Tractor-trailer drivers sometimes do not follow safety regulations or may drive when drowsy or distracted. If you were injured in a tractor-trailer accident, it may be appropriate to seek compensation for medical expenses and other costs related to your injuries.

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