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Coping with big rig hazards -- How to safely share the roadways

Trucks deliver almost all the merchandise and food you see in your local stores. Therefore, sharing the busy California roadways with commercial vehicles is unavoidable.  Working with them rather than against them might improve your chances of a safe arrival at your destination.

Due to their sheer size and weight, it is a challenge to maneuver commercial vehicles. Simple adjustments to your driving habits may help to improve your safety during your travels.

Limitations and capabilities of big rigs

If you are aware of the challenges commercial truck drivers face, you may find it easier to share the road safely and comfortably. The following may help you to understand the risks all drivers can face when they share the same roadways with semi-trucks:

  • Following distance -- Weather conditions and traffic flow determine safe following distances. A three-second following gap is safe in normal circumstances, but it will not be enough in inclement weather conditions or when traffic slows down due to crashes or construction. Wet weather can also cause blinding splashes from a truck, and leaving your headlights on high beam when you are behind a semi at night might cause problems for the truck driver.
  • Blind spots -- Remember that the truck operator can only see you if you can see him or her in the side view mirror. If the driver is aware of your presence, he or she can give you timely indication of intention to turn or stop. Big rigs have large blind spots directly behind them, and spending as little time as possible in those areas may avoid accidents.
  • Passing -- Impatience can be detrimental, and, tragically, too many motorists lose their lives because drivers think that they can beat oncoming traffic when they pass commercial vehicles. Give yourself ample time to pass, and be careful not to come up too close to the truck's rear. That will put you in the blind spot, and the driver will be unaware of your intention to pass. Also, you will have no space to veer back into your lane if there is an oncoming vehicle.
  • Returning to your lane after passing -- Trucks typically cannot stop or slow down instantly, and if you cut in front of one after passing it -- or entering from a side road -- the driver may be unable to avoid acommercial vehicle accident. A sudden stop may also cause the load to shift, and that momentum may lead to an accident.
  • A turning truck needs space -- Avoid passing a semi while it is turning -- even if you pass on its right while the truck is turning left. The driver may veer to the right to create the necessary space to maneuver the turn safely.
  • Air turbulence -- When an oncoming truck passes your vehicle, the air turbulence can cause a gust of wind that might affect your ability to control your vehicle, especially if you are in a small sedan or on a motorcycle. So, be alert and keep control by having a firm steering wheel grip.

While your safe driving may provide some protection, the negligence, distraction or even impairment of a commercial truck driver may lead to an accident causing catastrophic injuries and even fatalities. Recovering damages is possible through the California civil justice system. With experienced help of a legal representative, you can file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the driver and his or her employer.

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