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How to Safely Pass a Tractor-Trailer on the Highway

Passing a tractor-trailer on the highway can be scary. It doesn’t have to be scary or dangerous though. Understand the truck, plan your moves, remain calm, and avoid distractions, and that truck will be behind you in no time. Here are some tips on how to safely pass a tractor trailer on the highway.

When Passing, Be Aware of Tractor-Trailer Blind Spots

A truck driver’s view of the road is completely different from yours. Trucks have blind spots, and if you’re in one of them, the driver can’t see you.

  • The entire right side of the truck behind the cab is a blind spot. There’s also a smaller blind spot on the left side of the truck.
  • There’s a large blind spot in the front of the cab. The truck driver sits much higher than you do and can’t see what’s right in front of him. If you’re far enough away to see the truck’s headlights in your rear-view mirror, it’s safe to pull in front of it.
  • There’s no rear-view mirror in a truck cab so the driver won’t see you if you’re tailgating.
  • If you can’t see the truck driver’s face in your side or rear-view mirror, he can’t see you either, so move into a space where you can see each other as quickly as possible.

Passing A Tractor-Trailer Safely on the Highway

Before you start to pass a truck, make sure you’re not distracted at all. Here are some other tips:

  • When you pass a truck, go about the length of a football field or six car lengths before pulling into the lane in front of it. If you can see its headlights in your rear-view mirror, it’s safe to move over.
  • Never push your way into traffic. Be patient and wait until there’s space for you to safely change lanes.
  • When you’re beside the truck, stay at a steady and safe speed. Don’t speed up to get by faster.
  • Try to pass on the left, not the right. Remember that huge right-side blind spot.
  • Dim your bright lights. Bright lights shining into the large side mirrors of a truck can temporarily blind the driver.
  • If a truck is passing you, slow down a bit so it’s easier for the driver to get by.
  • Remember, in South Carolina, the far left lane is for passing only. Once you’re safely past the truck, you must move back into a right-hand lane.

How Truck Accidents Happen

Truck drivers, and sometimes the trucks themselves, are responsible for accidents. But the vast majority – 72 percent – are caused by passenger vehicles. The main culprits: distracted driving (think using your cell phone while driving, which is against the law in South Carolina), aggressive driving, driving under the influence (that, too, is against the law), and drowsy driving.

Passenger car drivers can also cause accidents by driving in the trucker’s blind spots, changing lanes abruptly in front of a truck (don’t forget that front blind spot), merging onto a highway in a way that forces the truck to brake or maneuver quickly, and driving between large trucks.

In accidents where the truck or trucker is at fault, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says 88 percent of accidents are due to driver error.

Speeding, substance abuse, texting while driving, and even something as simple as reaching over to change the dial on the radio can all cause horrific accidents. But the most common cause of accidents is driver fatigue. It accounts for about 40 percent of all truck accidents caused by drivers.

Federal regulations say drivers may drive up to 11 hours a day with at least a 30-minute break after eight hours. The regulations require at least 10 hours off before beginning a new 60-hour workweek.

But for truck drivers, time is money. And not all of them obey the regulations. They could be rushing to meet a delivery deadline or slowed down by a rush hour traffic jam or bad weather. The way they’re paid can also encourage them to drive too fast or drive longer than the law allows.

And the truck itself can cause accidents. The tires on 18-wheelers are prone to blowouts A loaded truck can legally carry at least 80,000 pounds, and that puts stress on the tires. One trucker calls them ticking time bombs. When a tire blows out, huge pieces of rubber fly everywhere, and the truck may swerve until the driver regains control.

Being beside a truck on a windy day can be dangerous, too. On a windy day, the truck’s huge surface area can make it difficult to control.

Trucks Are Vital to the Economy

Trucks are a vital part of the economy, and when treated with respect, they’re not dangerous. If you must pass an eighteen-wheeler, plan your move, and move as quickly as you can safely when you’re beside the truck. And always be aware of those blind spots, especially when you’re in front of a big rig or behind one.

If you would like more information about truck accidents or were involved in one that you believe you may be able to take legal action for, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Solomon Law Group today. We’re proud to serve the Columbia, SC community and are happy to speak to you about your potential case at no obligation or cost to you whatsoever.

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