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Careful driving around large trucks means everyone arrives safely

Truck drivers travel more than 430 billion miles each year. Large trucks’ size and handling characteristics require careful driving, not only by operators but also by motorists around them.

That’s why Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. and Drive Smart Virginia are encouraging members to “Share the Road” when traveling the same routes as tractor trailers.

A Virginia Tech Transportation Research Institute study found that 78 percent of crashes involving commercial motor vehicles were caused by passenger vehicle drivers. Such crashes and resulting injuries, fatalities and property loss occur due to a lack of awareness and understanding about the special considerations involved with driving a truck.

For example, according to the American Trucking Associations, roughly one-third of fatal crashes involving a car and a large truck occurred in one of the blind spots surrounding the truck.

An 18-wheeler is a large, heavy vehicle that:

  • requires more turning space and a greater braking distance;
  • has larger blind spots that can hide even another truck from the driver’s view;
  • needs more space and distance to execute a merge or exit on the interstate;
  • has a higher center of gravity that makes it more susceptible to rollovers;
  • can drift backward as much as 15 feet before the forward gears engage when the truck is stopped on an upgrade; and
  • can gain speed when traveling on a downgrade, especially when carrying a full load.

“Motorists in passenger vehicles are acting in everyone’s best interests when they drive mindfully around large trucks,” noted Sam Rooks, VFBMIC vice president of underwriting and policy services. “And they are increasing the likelihood that everyone reaches their destinations safely.”

The following precautions make for a safer driving experience.

  • Maintain enough space between you and a truck in front of you that you can see the side mirrors.
  • Always use your turn signals, and watch for truck drivers’ turn signals as well.
  • Make every effort to pass a large truck on its left side.
  • When passing, be sure there is sufficient distance to pass and return to the driving lane without speeding and without cutting off the truck.
  • Watch for hills, knowing that trucks may slow going uphill but gain speed quickly when going downhill.
  • Allow room to maneuver in the event of an emergency situation with a truck, another vehicle or your own vehicle.
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