Semi-trucks are responsible for moving about 70% of all freight across the United States, with 80% of communities relying on these deliveries. Freight trucks and their operators are therefore critical to keeping the United States moving and supplied.

However, these trucks pose a substantial risk to other vehicles on the road, with over 400,000 accidents annually involving large trucks, including over 4,000 with fatalities. That’s why you need to take every precaution to reduce your risk of being part of those statistics. Consider these eight tips for improving your safety while driving around semi-trucks.

1. Reduce Distractions

It’s always a good idea to reduce distractions while driving to reduce the risk of any sort of accident. In fact, Colorado Revised Code § 42-4-239 (2021) makes it illegal to us a cell phone for texting or other “forms of manual transmission,” such as using the Internet or social media, while operating a motor vehicle.

Driving near a semi-truck requires extra diligence because of its sheer size, which reduces the amount of room they have to make corrections while maintaining their lane. When you’re near a semi-truck, reduce as many distractions as possible. This includes not working the radio, navigation system, or even drinking or eating. The more attentive you are to the trucks around you, the earlier you can respond to a changing condition and avoid an accident.

2. Keep Your Distance

Part of the challenge for semi-trucks is the sheer weight they haul, with loads often as much as 80,000 pounds. This is why semi-trucks take a little while to get up to speed and why they require so much stopping distance. That said, give trucks plenty of room when driving behind them or ahead of them.

You may not know it, but truck drivers colloquially call the area directly in front of their rig the “dead zone”. It’s gotten this name because when someone pulls in front of the rig, it may not have enough time to stop. The amount of weight momentum behind the truck will cause significant damage and injuries if that car stops suddenly.

3. Only Pass On the Driver’s Side

Whenever possible, pass quickly on the driver’s side of the semi-truck cab. This is the side of the truck with the smallest blind spot, making it more likely that the driver will see you while you’re passing. Further, make sure to increase your speed while staying within the speed limit so that you get by them quickly. The driver’s side is also the area where you’re least likely to get caught between the truck and guard rails or a ditch.

4. Be Mindful of Blind Spots

Blind spots are a major issue for semi-trucks because of the physical dimensions of their load. Trailers commonly extend about 50 feet behind the cab, creating a complete blind spot behind the trailer, with significant blind spots to the sides as well. Further, the cab sits up high, creating a blind spot for about 20 feet in front of the truck. If the driver can’t see you, there’s no way for them to avoid a collision if they need to change lanes.

If you’re behind a truck, the rule of thumb is that they cannot see if you cannot see their mirrors. While driving alongside a truck, if you cannot see the face of the driver in the mirror, it’s likely they will not see you either.

5. Avoid Driving Alongside Them

The longer you spend alongside a semi-truck, the higher the risk you run of that truck needing to merge over and the driver not seeing you. If you find yourself stuck next to a semi-truck, either increase your speed a little to get past it or consider slowing down. You’re safer slowing down a bit and getting behind a semi-truck rather than ending up under its tires.

6. Consider The Implications of High Wind

We’ve all experienced how high wind can increase the difficulty of handling your vehicle. Now imagine driving a 50-foot-long, 13-foot-tall wall. The wind pushes against it, and the skill of the driver keeps it in its lane. However, a sudden gust of wind can cause the trailer to move unexpectedly. If you’re driving in high-wind conditions, give the trucks on the road a little extra room and exercise more caution when deciding whether to pass them or not.

7. Understand Wide Turns

As you’ve likely seen while driving, trucks need some extra room while turning to allow them to pivot the trailer properly around corners. If you’re in a left turn lane, make sure to stay behind the stop bar to allow them the room they need. If there are multiple lanes turning right, be sure to stay back to give them the room they require to avoid causing an accident.

8. Adjust For Weather

Finally, make sure that you consider how weather affects a truck driver’s ability to control their rig. If it’s raining or snowy, the truck will require additional distance to stop, so provide them some extra room. Likewise, because they sit up so high fog can reduce their visibility more than yours, so drive with extra caution in foggy conditions.

Despite doing everything you can to stay safe, there’s still a risk of having an accident with a semi-truck. If you’re involved in a semi-truck accident, call to schedule your free truck accident consultation with the legal experts at Matlin Injury Law.