Keep Clear of Semi Tractor-Trailers at Intersections and Tight Curves

Over 4,500 people are killed each year in the USA in road collisions that involve semi tractor-trailers and other large trucks, and the majority of those killed are in smaller vehicles which, for whatever reason, are simply too close to the truck concerned.

Photo of "Wide Turn" warning signs on the spray flaps of a semi tractor-trailer.
A good proportion of large trucks, especially semi tractor-trailers, display warning signs — here on the spray flaps — about the need for them to be driven “wide” on the approach to sharp turns at intersections, yet sadly a huge number of car drivers remain oblivious to the extreme danger that can result from ignoring these warnings. (Copyright image.)

The causes of so many of the deadly crashes include:

  • Pulling in too soon, ahead of a large truck that you have just passed (and the all-too-common tailgating of cars by truck drivers creates exactly the same massive danger);
  • Driving too close behind a large truck, because if the truck isn’t heavily loaded its airbrakes can often stop it faster than a car can stop, and those “under-run” prevention bars (see a corner of one in the photograph above) ludicrously aren’t always good enough to stop a car running right underneath the back end of the truck and wiping out everyone in the car;
  • Getting on the right-hand side of a semi that is about to turn right — Concentrate!  Ignore the tempting gap, watch for the truck’s signals!
  • Similarly, getting on the left-hand side of a semi on a roundabout or on a sharp left-hand curve with two or more lanes in the direction you are heading;
  • Car drivers staying for too long in truck drivers’ blind spots;
  • Staying alongside a big truck for an unnecessarily long time when trying to pass it (in other words, if you cannot completely pass a big truck on the highway because of other vehicles ahead of you, it is wise to hold back slightly so that you don’t sit sandwiched between the side of the truck and either other vehicles or a guard rail).  This will be the topic of a separate blog/article, in the future.
Photo of a "Caution -- Wide Right Turn" warning sign that is commonly seen on the back doors of semi tractor-trailers but which drivers commonly ignore.
The warning sign that is commonly seen on the back doors of semi tractor-trailers but which drivers commonly ignore. (Copyright image.)

In the photo on the right, you will see exactly the scenario that is shown happening in the next photograph below.

As mentioned in the bullet-point list, above, it is essential that all drivers remain alert and focussed when in the vicinity of large trucks.  Allowing yourself to be inattentive could kill you, and of course if the truck driver is distracted in any way, that could kill you, too.  So you need to be paying attention on everybody’s behalf if you wish to stay safe.

Photo of an SUV in Florida narrowly avoiding a collision with a semi tractor-trailer that rightlytly had to go wide in order to make a sharp right turn and which had been signalling the intended turn correctly for plenty of time. Classic unattentive driving by the person in the SUV.
The driver in this SUV in Florida braked hard and narrowly avoided a collision with the semi tractor-trailer that correctly had to go wide in order to make a sharp right turn and which had been signalling the intended turn for plenty of time. This was classic and potentially lethal inattentive driving by the person in the SUV. (Copyright image.)

If the risks mentioned in this article haven’t grabbed your attention yet, remember this: Truck drivers in the USA have to work far more hours per day and per week than do truck drivers in other, safer countries, subjecting them to greater fatigue and drowsy driving.  This isn’t the drivers’ fault, they are forced to do it by perverted laws and greedy employers, so this is yet one more reason for us all to concentrate on maximum safety when driving anywhere near a semi tractor-trailer.

Author: EddieWren

Eddie Wren is the CEO and Chief Instructor at Advanced Drivers of North America. His driver safety background is given at:

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