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sharing the road with large trucks

There's nothing fun about driving next to an 18-wheeler. They're big and they have a frightening tendency to drift in and out of your lane more often than you'd like. But sharing the road with a big rig need not be a nightmare — there are things you can do to make it easier on yourself and your friendly neighborhood truck driver.

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How to drive around big rigs

You'll notice a theme throughout our driving tips — patience and awareness. These 2 virtues are never more valuable than when you find yourself navigating the roads alongside a big truck.

Take no chances (even when it's inconvenient)

When a truck's about to move into your lane, your first instinct might be to speed up and cut the vehicle off so you don't get stuck behind it. But this type of move puts you in danger. A truck can't stop as fast as your car, so if you suddenly cut in front of a truck and then hit the brakes, you're asking for a serious accident.

Always choose inconvenience over potential accidents.

Pass with extra care

Give the truck even more space than you would give other vehicles you normally pass. One point of reference is to make sure the front of the rig is visible in your rear-view mirror before returning to the truck's lane. The goal is to avoid putting the truck driver in a situation where sudden braking is necessary.

Watch out for those turns

Operate under the assumption that the truck driver can't see you. Truck drivers may need to swing wide to the left in order to make a right turn, so trying to squeeze directly behind or beside them could cause a collision. Wait to see where a truck intends to turn before making any move — and be sure to give it enough room.

5 reasons why big trucks present a driving challenge

Truck drivers are, for the most part, highly trained professionals, so why is it frightening to drive next to them? The truth is, it's (usually) not a problem with the truck driver's competence or driving habits. Instead, it's the truck itself that poses a variety of dangers. We'll explain why.

Weight difference and the law of gross tonnage

An 18-wheeler is just about the biggest thing on the road (besides, of course, the world's largest thermometer off I-15). And if you've ever gone sailing, you may be familiar with the law of gross tonnage — that is, if another vessel is larger than yours, you are obligated by your own sense of self-preservation to get out of its way.

The same applies on the road, because if you crash your 2-ton sedan into a 40-ton truck (or the other way around), it's inevitable that your car will sustain more serious damage than the semi. It's just a matter of physics and common sense (2 areas that don't always overlap).

The risk of underride/override

Because large trucks are just that, large, a collision with one can lead to underride or override, depending on who crashes into whom. Cars that rear-end large trucks are in danger of sliding under the truck on impact. Override can happen when a truck crashes into a car from behind, overriding the rear of the vehicle. Both scenarios are grim. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) used 2009 data to report that 70 percent of fatalities in accidents involving a car and a large truck were the occupants of the car.

Trucks that weigh in excess of 10,000 pounds are required by law to have rear underride guards, though the effectiveness of these devices has been called into question. In a 2011 report, the IIHS found that certain underride guards that met U.S. specifications buckled when struck by a car going 35 mph.

Stopping distance

Because of their weight, big trucks take longer (sometimes twice as long) to stop than other vehicles. Pure physics is at work here. The sort of drivers who like to bob and weave through heavy traffic can run into trouble if they forget that trucks aren't able to stop on a dime.

large truck no zones

Trucks have lots of "no-zones"

Big trucks have "no-zones" (otherwise known as blind spots) all around them, which is where truck-related accidents are more likely to happen. When driving in a truck's "no-zone," your car disappears from the truck driver's view. According to one report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a whopping one-third of accidents between cars and large trucks occur because of no-zones. A good rule of thumb is that if you can't see the driver's face in the truck's side mirror, chances are the driver can't see you.

Splash and spray

In wet conditions, large trucks can splash or spray snow, water, and mud onto other cars. And sudden splash or spray on your windshield can do a number on your ability to see. If you're driving in inclement weather (or weather that was recently inclement), it's especially important to give trucks lots of space so you don't wind up with 18-wheels' worth of mud on your windshield.

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