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How to drive safely around trucks? Respect the road.

A treasure of the land we all share.
A treasure of the land we all share.
photo by Thomas Stark: Nooksack River in Ferndale, WA

We all share the road. Truckers would like the public to know a number of things. Number one, please give truckers space when sharing the road. We all share the road. In 2012, there were an estimated 92 people killed on roadways each day in 30,800 fatal crashes. In 2011, the lowest number of 32,479 traffic fatalities happened in the last 62 years. So, for 62 years Americans continue to drive poorly.

Sharing the road is like sharing roses.
photo by Thomas Stark at French Prairie (Baldock Rest Area) Canby, OR

About giving a trucker space, please listen as this is important. When darting in front of a trucker on the highway or at any time, this is what happens. The trucker has to immediately put on brakes which could fail because of poor braking systems or an overloaded truck. What the driver does not see, is some 70,000 pounds of weight the trucker is hauling. When a trucker drives in traffic, the trucker is giving following space between the trucker and the next car. This is not an invitation for another driver to swiftly come fill this spot. This is done on purpose, in order that the trucker has enough braking time to avoid hitting the vehicle in front of his or her truck. By darting in front of the truck, you cut his braking time in half or less because he now has to watch out for you.

There is more about giving space to a trucker. When a driver is driving right along the back side of the trucker's door, this is known as a blind spot. There may or may not be a mirror on the front right side of the trucker's vehicle. When navigating around a trucker, be extra safe about doing so. If this means putting on headlights in midday driving conditions, then this might be a best practice. So, drifting around next to a truck is not a wise thing to do while driving. There are many other ways for drivers to avoid blind spots.

Next, tailgating a trucker is a horrible idea. He might not have seen you go behind him. This is another blind spot. The expansive space from the trailer to the tractor cab makes it more difficult to judge how close you are driving to the end of the trailer. Should a truck need to make an emergency stop and you are driving too closely, this could end tragically.

When driving on mountain roads, look for grades. These are the signs with the truck barreling down a hill. This is exactly the image you should have in mind. With 70,000 pounds of cargo, this could possibly make the brakes more erratic. The cargo is usually going to end in your home. Everything we purchase comes in on a truck. Most truckers pump brakes down about 3 seconds and release for 6 seconds giving plenty of time for the brakes to cool. We have all seen the charred out skeletal remains of trucks at the bottom of the Cajon Pass on the way to L.A. This is because of heavy brake usage which causes the brakes to catch on fire. Yes, the brakes will and can catch on fire if used extensively. Darting out in front of a truck on a downgrade causes the trucker to react and overuse the braking system.

Communicate with truckers. No, not via a CB! Turn signals help a trucker know who is approaching into the lane he is traveling. If the turn signals are out on your car, then use an arm out the window to signal which way you are going. All truckers know hand signals. But if you do not use them, then the communication is lost.

Distracted driving causes your car to weave in and out of traffic. This is unsettling to a lot of truckers. Digging through your purse, eating a snack, talking on a cell phone, putting on makeup, or driving with headphones on are all signs of distracted driving. What a trucker sees is a driver weaving. This weaving causes the trucker to rethink everything because he is looking out for your safety now by driving much further behind you.

Weather also makes driving conditions unsafe. If driving around Las Vegas in the rain, then give plenty of following distance between you and a truck. This means drive much farther ahead of a truck. If you are directly behind the truck, then drive with plenty of following distance. With very little rain in the Las Vegas area, when it does rain, the roads become extra slick. When you see a giant puddle in the middle of the road, do not be Superman and drive through it. There are many flash floods which happen in all sorts of areas out here even with the storm clouds much farther away.

If you should go drive a truck, then you will become more aware of the others on the road. Some Nevada Laws about driving may be found here. It helps to know what the laws are. Keep our first responders safe by abiding the move over law. Each state has different laws about this, but a good rule of thumb if you are able is to move over a lane from emergency stops on the side of the road. May we all share the road safely and enjoy our holiday travels in safety. Labor Day is upon us soon. Please put these helpful tips in your pocket. May some of my photography hopefully help you remain safe.