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Drivers of both cars and trucks can do more to prevent accidents

If you’ve ever witnessed a wreck between a large truck and a passenger car, you know these accidents can be catastrophic. A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, and that weight increases the momentum of the crash. We all want to prevent auto-truck accidents, yet an average of 500,000 of them happen every year -- including 5,000 fatalities.

Passenger-car drivers and commercial truckers both know we should do better at preventing accidents, but what, specifically? The highway safety group Road Safe America has identified some tips for each.

Car drivers, understand the limitations of semi trucks:

  • Large trucks and buses require a lot more time and distance to stop than cars do -- never cut them off! Leave at least 4 to 6 seconds’ worth of space between you and a truck behind you, especially at highway speeds or in poor weather.
  • Commercial trucks have big blind spots. A third of all auto-truck crashes happen when a car is in the truck’s “no zone.” If you can’t see the truck’s side mirrors, assume the trucker can’t see you.
  • Pass steadily and safely. Accelerate gently in your lane and maintain a constant speed. Don't move into the truck's lane until you can see the entire cab in your rear-view mirror. If you must pass on the right, remember that trucks need extra space to turn.

    Truckers, make safety, good maintenance and defensive driving your goals:

    • Get enough rest. Driver fatigue is the leading cause of truck accidents, responsible for as many as 30 percent of all trucking crashes.
    • Inspect and maintain your truck. The most frequent citation that puts trucks out of service is brake problems -- the issue you can least afford.
    • Be vigilant about your blind spots. Many car drivers don’t know about your “no zone,” so always be aware of cars entering and leaving the zone.
    • Drive defensively. An estimated two-thirds of all traffic accidents involve aggressive driving. Take advantage of your driving height to anticipate upcoming driving conditions.
    • Always keep your distance. Since heavy trucks require so much more time and space to stop, the last thing you should do is tailgate smaller vehicles.

    Finally, for both types of drivers, please wear your seat belts. Increasing seat belt use remains the No. 1 thing we can do to minimize injuries and deaths from auto-truck accidents.

    Source: Road Safe America, "Driver Safety Tips (for Passenger Cars and Truckers)," 2009

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